As her agency's new managing director, Ros King is obliged to talk
the talk. However, as she mentions for the fourth time how J. Walter
Thompson has the strongest brand in advertising, you begin to think that
she really believes it too.
This loyalty to JWT may have been why King was chief executive Simon
Bolton's first choice for the job. "There are other very senior people
in the agency who probably feel that they might have had a shot at it
but I didn't talk to anyone else about the MD position," Bolton says,
citing King's client facing skills.
"I'm looking for someone to balance my skills and she'll be a wonderful
"I set myself very high standards and I expect others to live up to
those standards," says King of her management style. "I can be quite
tough if people don't come up to the standards I expect. But I hope I
don't ask people to do things that I wouldn't do myself."
King, 41, started out as a graduate trainee at Leo Burnett in 1981 and
spent ten years at the agency, either side of a two-year break with
Ogilvy & Mather. She arrived at JWT four years ago, after a spell at
McCann-Erickson as global director on the Reckitt and Colman business.
Since joining, she has risen to the position of managing partner on the
Boots and Unilever accounts and has overseen the Boots business grow to
become JWT London's second largest client with billings of pounds 30
Now King has a different milestone to add to her impressive list of
credentials, becoming the first woman to break into the men-only club
that has been JWT's senior management.
"The idea that we're a gentlemen's club just isn't true anymore," says
the agency's director of strategy and development, Marco Rimini, who
points to the presence of several women on JWT's board. "What this does
is demonstrate that overtly. It's a good statement for Simon to
Martin Jones, the owner of the AAR and a former JWT man, thinks that
Bolton and King will work well together. "They have someone from the
outside that sees things with a fresh pair of eyes but also someone who
has been there long enough to know the agency but not long enough to be
entrenched in it," he says. "It's the best of both worlds."
King's main job will be to support Bolton's promised revamp of JWT. He
has already slimmed down an unwieldly management team into a leaner core
team. The change process will gather steam when the agency de-camps to
Knightsbridge next year.
"One of the first things that we are looking at is putting in place the
right people on the right business," reveals King. "No one area has a
huge weakness. We are a brand in good shape. But the market is evolving
and we need to evolve with it."
For possibly the first time in its history, JWT lacked a clear
succession strategy after last year's departure of the former chief
executive Stephen Carter. Now Bolton will hope that King's performance
ensures such a problem does not arise again.