Jones finally shows he has the ability to surprise
A view from Jeremy Lee

Jones finally shows he has the ability to surprise

In a Campaign interview several years ago, Nigel Jones, the now outgoing Publicis group chairman and chief executive, borrowed heavily (without crediting) Bartle Bogle Hegarty's founding principle of zigging versus zagging to explain how to get on in business.

 At that time, while he was the chief executive of Claydon Heeley Jones Mason, it didn't seem the most original way to explain his own particular route to the top - sounding rather pat and predictable.

There also wasn’t much evidence on his own CV of Jones actually doing that – of course, he had been a successful entrepreneur in his own right, but his career path seemed relatively well-trodden with few surprises along the way. However, his sudden recent decision to quit Publicis and join DraftFCB as its head of global strategy seems to be Jones finally observing such a mantra.

While Publicis in the UK might not yet be cooking on all burners, what should we make of him taking a global planning role at DraftFCB? To many, the decision seems a case of zigging out of the frying pan and zagging into the fire.

To many, Jones' decision seems a case of zigging out of the frying pan and zagging into the fire

In fairness to Jones, you could argue that his job at the agency was done. Installed by Richard Pinder five years ago in an attempt to shore up its moribund reputation, Jones’ arrival coincided with financial irregularities at its customer publishing division, Publicis Blueprint, which he successfully managed to steer it through. Jones was also responsible for buying Chemistry and merging it with Publicis Dialog to create one of the biggest DM operations in town, as well as totally revamping the management team of the London advertising agency – a laborious process that was not without pain but that might just be starting to bear fruit.

While this childhood mathematics prodigy might not be lauded for his interpersonal skills, history may yet be kinder in the judgment of his precise and clinical approach to running the Publicis group.

And what of DraftFCB? In truth, it’s difficult to know. In the UK, at least, the agency’s reputation is tarnished somewhat by the clouds of obscurity. Ask most people to name a client and the chances are that they would struggle to get past Nivea. And as for the work, that’s anyone’s guess too.

To Jones, though, who previously worked at the London agency as its co-president when it was created from its component parts, you would think that DraftFCB must be a more familiar beast. Or at least one whose charms had become more alluring as the realities of the Publicis/Omnicom merger start to hit home. In that regard, his actions might be wise ones, or at least a precursor to more senior zags out of the new group’s agencies.