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
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
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
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
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
"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."