Editorial: Will flamboyant Sir Frank fit in to today's industry?

When a nervous British government brought Winston Churchill out of the political wilderness to resume his old job as First Lord of the Admiralty soon after the outbreak of war in 1939, a three-word message was flashed to the fleet: "Winston is back." Doubtless a similar missive was e-mailed around adland last week after a brief release from a PR company confirmed Sir Frank Lowe was returning to head an agency start-up.

Frank is back. After two years in purdah, the old heavyweight wants a final crack at the title and, no doubt, to prove a point or two to those who saw him as clinging on to outdated practices and principles.

It's strange how many uncanny resemblances there are between the great politician and the great adman. Both spent their time in exile warning against the evils of the world as they saw them to anyone who would listen.

And both have been contradictory figures - charming and kind, tyrannical and eccentric; wise and mercurial; manic and cunning. What's more, there is little the pair could teach each other about downright cussedness.

Many still recall the time ten years ago when Lowe, as the chairman of the Cannes jury, refused to award a Grand Prix.

In Lowe's mind, there is little doubt about his nemesis. He has never forgotten the brutal way Interpublic cast him out in 2003. To him, IPG is symbolic of how the giant networks have moved from doing ads from which they make a profit to creating profit by making ads. Now free from IPG's covenants, he has dished up his revenge and served it cold.

Call it bloody-mindedness if you want. Others would see Lowe merely acting on his beliefs. Chief of those has been his refusal to countenance sub-standard work. Indeed, it says much about the strong culture its founder engendered that, despite the turmoil at Lowe London in recent years, creative standards have rarely faltered.

In as much as Lowe has been passionate about creativity, his return must be welcome. Nevertheless, he is a product of the free-spending 80s and it remains to be seen whether the man bearing the most charismatic surname in the business apart from the Saatchi brothers still has what it takes to succeed in today's fast-moving communications world.


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