CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/TAMARA INGRAM - Queen of Saatchis transfers affection to McCann - Tamara Ingram is ready to woo clients as head of the agency

This week one of adland's most high-profile executives changed jobs

and Campaign's phone hasn't stopped ringing since the news broke.

Saatchi & Saatchi's executive chairman, Tamara Ingram, is quitting the

agency she said she'd never leave to take the top job at McCann-Erickson

in the UK and the move has set tongues wagging.



It isn't hard to see why. Ingram, who joined Saatchis 16 years ago,

handed in her notice this week after a torrid few months for the agency.

The new chief executive, James Hall, drafted in SAS-style from New

Zealand by the worldwide chief executive, Kevin Roberts, says there are

no plans to replace her in the agency's "new order".



Hall was hired to overhaul the London shop, cut out layers of

bureaucracy and win more business. When he arrived, he, plus the

creative director, Dave Droga, and the planning director, Kevin Dundas,

all reported to Ingram. But before long he instituted a restructure,

which effectively sidelined Ingram. Hall, Droga and Dundas began to

report directly to Roberts.



Hall's arrival also saw Ingram relieved of everyday management issues,

letting her concentrate on what she admits she loves best - client

relationships. More than 60 people left the agency as part of a

Draconian cost-cutting initiative undertaken by Hall.



Look at these facts, and a picture begins to emerge of why Ingram - who

was propelled to joint chief executive alongside the FA boss, Adam

Crozier, after the formation of M&C Saatchi in the mid-90s - decided to

leave.



It's not difficult to imagine a sense of increasing isolation for Ingram

as she sat at the top of an agency now being run to a different

tune.



She strenuously denies becoming disillusioned and sidelined when asked

about her diminished role alongside the gung-ho Hall. "I did not feel my

wings had been clipped. I was given space to do what was needed, to

reassure our clients that they would not be compromised during the

upheaval of restructuring," she stresses.



For his part, Saatchis' worldwide chief executive, Kevin Roberts, said:

"I never took her commitment to Saatchis for granted and I don't have

the 'shock, horror' feelings that others might. It's a good move for

her."



So the evidence suggests that the time was right for Ingram to leave

Saatchis. Derek Bowden, the former European chairman of the network,

says: "Tamara has always done the right thing for the company and now

she should concentrate on what's right for her."



Coming through equally loud and clear are impressions of Ingram as a

powerhouse of energy who simply needed a new challenge. This is, after

all, the woman who regularly rallied staffers with speeches littered

with expletives (delivered from the reception desk in Charlotte Street)

and once cried in a client meeting, so passionate was she about the

creative idea.



The Interbrand chief executive, Rita Clifton, who worked with her

between 1986 and 1997, claims Ingram's "infectious enthusiasm epitomised

the agency's can-do culture".



But others, while praising her ambition and achievements, doubt she was

ready to take the helm as early as 1993.



"Making her chief executive when she wasn't ready was a mistake - for

her and the agency," another former senior executive says. "If

McCann-Erickson is wise, it will recognise her immense strength lies in

how she deals with clients, and leave the management of the UK agency to

others." The former Saatchis colleague and now chairman of

cdp-travissully, Chris McLeod, says: "She knows her way blindfolded

around big international clients."



That expertise, recognised by others, is the first thing Ingram mentions

when quizzed about her new job: "I have a passion for international

clients and FMCG business - it inspires me hugely."



Lucky for her, then, that McCann's client list contains names such as

Nestle and L'Oreal. Lucky, also, that her senior team comprises the

deputy chief executive, Chris Hunton, and the managing director, Nick

Wright, to take care of the management of some 2,000 staff across the

UK. Creative issues will also be pressing on Ingram, whose enthusiasm

for creativity is said to outstrip her understanding of it.



None doubt her passion and drive and only a handful doubt her ability.

But Hall's appointment to Saatchis in April, combined with the past few

months, is still a painful reminder of what happens when passion and

involvement make it difficult to grasp an agency's management

nettles.



"She won't have the same emotional ties with McCann," one insider says,

claiming the regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa,

Ben Langdon, will react fast if she fails to deliver. "She's a big

person in adland, with a fantastic flair for, and love of, the business.

But if it's too much for her, we'll know very fast."



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