Editorial: Campbell and Kelly are best chance United has

Having come to be seen as a network that switches its name as often as its philosophy, has the newly christened United found its true role within the WPP family? It is a question that is hard to answer unequivocally.

It has suffered too many false starts and leadership changes to be certain.

Nor has it always had Sir Martin Sorrell's undivided attention.

However, last week's events suggest Sorrell is getting serious about what has often been the runt of WPP's litter. For one thing, there is WPP buying out Chime's 51 per cent stake in the former HHCL & Partners. Under its new name, United London, there must now be reasonable expectation that the agency will get the investment needed to fulfil its intended role as the network's creative spark plug.

For another, there is the hiring of Jim Kelly and Robert Campbell, the duo charged with driving forward an agency that last year seemed to have lost its sureness of touch when it came to converting pitches.

In Kelly, the United network has landed one of the best managers in the business, and one who has been linked with some of the biggest vacant jobs. In Campbell, it has someone of real stature, as popular within his creative department as outside it.

Between them, they give plausibility to a network created in haste in 1988 to handle the Alfa Romeo account WPP could not accommodate elsewhere.

Since then, it has had to make up its USP as it went along. There has been little obvious synergy between its various outposts. And its raison d'etre seemed even more blurred when a number of former Bates offices were merged into it after WPP bought Cordiant three years ago.

Little wonder business prospects have not exactly been beating a path to its door.

Having now slimmed itself down to a more manageable size and with the addition of two senior managers who know their stuff, United's prospects suddenly look brighter. Despite boasting a comprehensive array of marketing services, WPP has been conspicuously lacking the kind of micro-network that could give Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Wieden & Kennedy a run for their money. United could be that network - as long as it remembers that any further reinventions may leave its credibility beyond rescue.


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