CLOSE-UP: Newsmakers/Garry Lace and Johnny Hornby - New TBWA chiefs keen to score the winning goal. Johnny Hornby and Garry Lace want TBWA to top its game. By Matthew Cowen

’It’s like managing Manchester United,’ Johnny Hornby says of the role that he and Garry Lace will play as the new joint managing directors of TBWA GGT Simons Palmer. ’The agency’s on the top of its game but we could easily be 30 per cent better.’

’It’s like managing Manchester United,’ Johnny Hornby says of the

role that he and Garry Lace will play as the new joint managing

directors of TBWA GGT Simons Palmer. ’The agency’s on the top of its

game but we could easily be 30 per cent better.’

On the face of it, it seems strange for Hornby to use Alex Ferguson’s

side as a metaphor for the agency he now helps to manage. After all, he

does hail from the best-known family of Arsenal supporters in the

country, with a chapter of his step-brother Nick Hornby’s Gunner-crazed

novel Fever Pitch devoted to him.

Unfortunately, though, the north Londoners just haven’t been enjoying

the kind of long-term success that Hornby believes is around the corner

for TBWA - and the Red Devils have.

’When Alex Ferguson won the championship he didn’t make do with that,’

he says. ’He went out and got some new players. That’s the attitude we

want to have here.’

Guarding against complacency seems to be the watchword at TBWA these

days. And the agency does have quite a few recent laurels to rest on.

Last year TBWA pulled in pounds 47.5 million of new business and pumped

out critically acclaimed work for Sony PlayStation and French


It brought them within a whisker of Campaign’s Agency of the Year


Missing out by the narrowest of margins doesn’t seem to have dented

Hornby’s confidence.

’I ask myself if we’d be doing as well now if we had won it,’ he says,

referring to the company’s new-business wins in 2000, which include

Unicef’s global pounds 200 million children’s rights campaign. ’For

whatever reason, we’ve had a great start to the year.’

The most surprising thing about TBWA’s recent success is that it comes

only 18 months after the string of four mergers that founded the agency.

After those changes, Paul Bainsfair and company might have been forgiven

for sitting back and taking it easy for a while. ’People assumed there

would be a fall-off in the work so soon after the merger,’ Lace


’But instead, people reacted by putting the internal politics out of the

room, getting their heads down and concentrating 100 per cent on running

the business. In the end we did better work than we had as four separate

agencies because the client was king and the internal goings-on didn’t


Promoting former managing partners Hornby and Lace seems intended to

maintain the same spirit by decentralising TBWA’s command structures as

much as possible. The two MDs say they will be handpicking account teams

for each piece of business and rewarding them on their merits.

’We want people who see every account as an opportunity to make

themselves and their client famous,’ Hornby says. ’Then we will reward

each account team and each member based on what they are


The intention seems to be for each team to operate almost as a start-up

agency. ’We want cross-discipline contributions on every piece of

business,’ Hornby says. ’If everyone in the room is going to share in

the success of the account then the client knows that their business

matters to each and every one of them. They know that our motive in

advertising isn’t just awards or recognition, it’s the entrepreneurial


Maintaining that go-getting attitude is something both men seem keen to

apply to themselves. ’If ten years ago you’d have told me I could be

managing director of this agency, I’d have asked you to pinch me,’ says

Lace, who was recruited from Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper in April 1998. ’But

in the end it doesn’t matter what your job title is. Forget what you did

last week, you are only as good as your next meeting or your next


Hornby was brought in from CDP to run the prestigious Nissan account

four months after Lace’s arrival. ’Just in time to repair the damage,’

he says with a grin. He sees the pair’s new roles as a natural extension

of what’s gone before.

’We need to apply the same thinking we’ve applied to our clients to

ourselves,’ Hornby says. ’We’re adding a new client to our roster, and

it’s TBWA.’

In the interests of maximising this new client’s resources, Lace and

Hornby will be analysing each piece of business to decide what areas of

the agency should or should not be deployed on it.

Given TBWA’s long, merger-fuelled account list, it’s a move that makes

perfect sense. ’We do have a long tail of accounts so we have to be much

cleverer in how we use our resources,’ Lace says. ’We shouldn’t have a

planner in a meeting just for the sake of having a planner in the


Managing TBWA’s human resources is about more than withholding a planner

here and there. As any football manager knows, it’s difficult to keep

every member of a strong squad happy and with players like the new

creatives Ben Priest and Brian Campbell on the books - not to mention

the managing partners Nick Kerr and Peter Jones - TBWA’s squad needs

more managing than most.

Far from worrying about so many egos rubbing shoulders, however, Hornby

seems confident enough to think of adding new talent to the ranks. ’We

want to be able to say so-and-so is the best account director at Saatchi

& Saatchi and so we’ll go out and get them,’ he says. ’We can say to

people ’come here, go for it, and we’ll provide the structures to

support you’.’

But might there not be too many captains on TBWA’s bridge already? ’I

don’t think you can have too many,’ Hornby says. ’If you look at our

account list, we have 58 ships so we ideally want 58 captains.’ It’s an

outlook Lace thinks other agencies might be able to learn from.

’A lot of places are built around one or two strong personalities and

anyone else tends to move on. But this new system will make sure that it

isn’t just the partners that will own this partnership. We have a broad

range of brands in the frame where good advertising can boost results

and that supports a broad range of senior talent.’

Lace and Hornby clearly don’t intend to lose touch with the process of

boosting clients’ results. ’We can’t tell 58 clients that we’re going to

function as an account manager for them,’ Hornby says. ’We need to grow

talent and pick the right teams for each piece of business. Then, if

that account goes a goal down, we can pull our boots on and get out

there - just like Gianlucca Vialli.’