EUROPEAN AGENCIES: The nous behind the networks

These are exciting times for creativity, but less so for the balance sheet, according to eight of Europe's network heads who talked to Pippa Considine about how they keep clients and staff happy during the economic downturn.

MARK CRANMER - Chief Executive, EMEA, Starcom MediaVest Group

Cranmer spent his early years in advertising in the late 70s in the media departments of Bates, JWT and Leo Burnett. In 1982, he joined Lowe Howard-Spink as media director. He went back to media at BBH in 1990 and in 1995 created BBH's media company, Motive, which then merged with Leo Burnett's Starcom UK. Starcom Motive is the lead regional office in Bcom3's media division, Starcom.

'The recession is an overwhelming factor, but it affects different players in different ways.

Starcom only came into being in Europe in the summer of 2000 and in two-and-a-half years we have created a coherent network within the region and have achieved remarkable growth.

What we've been is a challenger network. The big challenge in media right now is to stop focusing on executional buying and bring in people bright enough to add skills to the media agencies and add value by understanding the media environment way beyond the transactional abilities of a buyer.

Two really interesting markets are France and Italy. In France, Aegis has 28 per cent of the market and Havas 21 per cent, while in Italy WPP has 30 per cent and Carat 19 per cent. Market domination such as that magnifies the need to investigate and experiment with a different way of buying media.

MICHAEL MAEDEL - President and Chief Executive, JWT EMEA

Maedel began his career as a trainee at Y&R Frankfurt in 1972. He stayed with Y&R for 13 years, rising to executive director and general manager, Y&R Frankfurt. Two years later he was hired by Ted Bates Werbagentur, Frankfurt as chairman. In 1990, he joined JWT as chairman and chief executive of JWT Germany, later taking on the role of area director for Central and Eastern Europe.

'The impact of recession is really being felt. People are holding back spending and there are high unemployment rates in key markets - Germany, Spain and France. There's no consumer upswing in sight.

For clients, there's a lot of soul-searching going on. They are less into long-term brand-building campaigns. More than ever, there's a need to see a return. It's not enough to have a group with specialist offices; you need to know how to combine the channels to make an impact. We are experimenting with brand communications consultancies and producing interesting results.

There's also an increased momentum in new-business activities. Even long-term relationships are put to the test if they don't produce tangible results.

The recession also reflects a national mentality. In Germany the world is coming to an end, in the UK attitudes are upbeat and smaller markets are moving forward, and in France they still have their joie de vivre.

STEVE KING - Chief Executive, Zenith Optimedia Group, EMEA

King started his agency career in 1982 at Bates Dorland. In 1987, he became director of TV buying at Zenith Media UK, rising to managing director in 1993. After three years setting up and running Zenith USA, he returned to become chief executive of Zenith Media EMEA and, following the creation of the Zenith Optimedia Group in October 2001, took up his current role.

'Our own forecasts are probably the most widely regarded and the most recent suggest no recovery in 2002 in Europe. I don't think the market is going to go down much further, nor do I think there'll be a steep incline in revenues next year. Money spent now is scrutinised, interrogated and needs to be justified. That won't change for 18 months to two years.

In the UK, people are concerned with developing integrated communications planning. In other parts of continental Europe, it's more about performance and pricing. If there's one factor that transcends all others for clients, it's accountability and return on investment and we need tools and techniques to help us to demonstrate that it's an investment. There's a more scientific approach, less subjectivity than a couple of years ago. It's difficult for the media industry. The biggest differentiation for agencies is good people - making sure you've got the best people and that they are well resourced.

SERGIO LORCA - Chief Operating Officer, Initiative Media, EMEA

Lorca started out as a Unilever recruit in 1987. After seven years, he joined Initiative Media Lisbon as managing director and in 1996 was appointed Initiative's chief executive of Iberia, a position that he kept while developing Initiative's Latin American operation. He spent a year at the Spanish media group PRISA, before returning to Initiative Media and his current job in 2000.

'Now media owners and agencies are concentrated into a small number of global players, we have to make sure size and scale work better for our clients. We are looking to improve our research capacity and to develop our understanding of all the available media channels. I think we are returning to the very basics - improving our understanding of channel planning and making sure that the implementation is efficient and meets strict quality guidelines.

It will be very difficult for global advertising investment to get back to the levels of two years ago. A recent report by IM Futures, which we hope to publish in the New Year, reveals a mixed picture. Overall, European advertising declined by almost 2 per cent in 2001 but this could have been worse if it were not for the ad markets in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia. The economic crisis was slow to arrive in Southern Europe - but now Portugal, Spain and particularly Italy are being hit hard.

TOBY HOARE - Regional President, Bates Worldwide

Hoare began his career in the marketing and sales departments of Express Newspapers. In 1982, he moved to Dorland Advertising, becoming the youngest associate director of the agency three years later. In 1987, he joined Y&R, making chief executive in 1995. After four years in that role, he joined Bates UK as group chief executive and was recently promoted to his current position.

'Obviously every market is operating in a depressed environment. Clients are spending less and want to pay us less.

But I've seen evidence of really fresh creative thinking, often coming from our smaller offices rather than ones where the resource is centred.

Usually in networks, international clients look to the major markets for creativity in the belief that their best chance of success will come from the biggest offices. What I've seen recently in Vienna, Holland and Oslo are some original, clever ideas.

Clients are under pressure to deliver synergies and save money. Travelling a lot, I have become aware of some advertisers who are rigorous in ensuring consistency of style and message in every market (such as HSBC).

Some international networks have invested in developing research tools.

But there still seems a lot to do to convince clients it helps us hit the bullseye quicker and more often ... and is worth paying for.

PAUL BAINSFAIR - President, Northern Europe, and Chairman, TBWA/UK

Bainsfair started life in advertising with JWT, joining Saatchi & Saatchi in 1975, rising to become managing director in 1987. Three years, later he launched Bainsfair Sharkey Trott, which initially linked with the French group BDDP and was later bought by GGT after seven years. He is now president of Northern Europe and chairman of TBWA UK Group, part of Omnicom.

'The biggest markets for TBWA are the UK and France and they are holding up well, particularly the UK.

TBWA's attitude is that you can drive yourself mad analysing the market. Yes, it's tough, but we are trying as hard as we can and not worrying too much. If you're a player in the industry, you're likely to be small because the market is fragmented. So it's possible to succeed against the vicissitudes of the market.

We have a clear strategy of trying to expand our non-advertising revenues in other marketing services. Clients are increasingly looking to media or channel-neutral ideas and so we should be giving clients ideas that are big in themselves - whether in advertising, sales promotion or sponsorship.

We have some real creative hotspots. Paris and London are the most obvious.

Beyond those, there's interesting success in places such as Finland and in Stockholm we have a very exciting agency at the forefront of having ideas which aren't just advertising.

CAROLYN CARTER - President, Grey Global Group, EMEA

Carter joined Grey in 1977 in the New York office as an account executive and rose to senior vice-president ten years later. In 1996, she moved to London as global account director for Mars. She was promoted to president for Grey Worldwide, EMEA in 2000 and in 2002 her role was expanded to include all Grey marketing communications operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

'Creatively, it's a very exciting time. You've always got good work coming out of the UK and France; we're also seeing strong work from some of our agencies in Scandinavia. And the fusion of entertainment and advertising is something we're going to see evolving in new ways to build brand identities.

In a sense, Europe has been more affected by economic fallout than the US, since it can't restructure and grow profitability in the same year because of the restrictive labour laws. Our view is that adspend in Europe won't go much lower. Our business has had two years of right-sizing and 2003 has the potential to be pretty good in terms of profit recovery.

With recession and uncertain political times, the watchword has to be 'cautious optimism'. We need to give our clients courage in such times.

Naturally, clients tend to be risk averse. But big ideas give them courage and measurable, accountable expenditure gives them security.

PIERRE LECOSSE - Chairman and Chief Executive, Euro RSCG Europe

Lecosse began his career in 1968 in New York with the Gilbert Agency. In 1970, he returned to France, where he first worked on the client side with Renault, then Publicis, followed by Y&R, a two-year stint with JWT, becoming chief operating officer of Eurocom Advertising Europe in 1991.

In 1992, he was made chief executive of Euro RSCG Asia-Pacific, moving into his current role in 1997.

'To begin with, it has been a bad year, and no-one can see any economic recovery for now. Morale is starting to go down across Europe, unemployment is increasing and, most importantly, trust is gone. I would predict that we'll see the first signs of recovery in mid 2003 at best.

More than ever, communications groups, advertising agencies and their clients must be partners. We have to face this difficult time together.

Our first goal must be to protect and develop our clients' businesses in terms of brand value, market share and, ultimately, their profitability and stock value.

France, the UK, the Netherlands and Spain are still really the creative engines in the European ad world.

But there are promising markets developing. In Eastern Europe the Czech Republic and Poland are developing innovative ideas that can potentially be adapted to other European markets.'

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