Media Perspective: Reducing the remit of regional chiefs is a sensible strategy
A view from Jeremy Lee

Media Perspective: Reducing the remit of regional chiefs is a sensible strategy

A global media agency chief recently mournfully described a large part of his peripatetic existence to me as consisting of "getting drunk on planes".

He was - I think - being slightly flippant, but there's little doubt that the loneliness of a regional or worldwide job, flying from market to market, clocking up the Air Miles along with the risk of deep-vein thrombosis, is not for the faintor weak-hearted. Developing a taste for the electric soup is surely just an occupational hazard.

Two weeks and two changes in UK media agency management teams. While both Jed Glanvill at Mindshare and, to a lesser extent, Tom George at sister WPP agency MEC will continue to have UK responsibilities, both have taken on wider European roles. Fortunately, both are made of stern stuff.

Dominic Proctor, Mindshare's global chief, has described the old regional structures, where jobs were slotted into the geographical EMEA, APACS and Americas time zones, as obsolete and largely "ceremonial". Given how big and complex agency networks have become, frequently with multiple offices in each country, it's difficult not to agree.

While the regional chief would traditionally fly in (anecdotally, possibly a bit drunk), there is little opportunity to actually get to grips with each market - to taste the dirt (and some markets are considerably dirtier than others) - given that in most regions, it is only humanly possible to spend a maximum of three or four days in each market each year. A bit like a minor royal touring a municipal building, a sanitised version of what's really going on at the agency is likely to be presented, while client contact is likely either to be minimal or of minimal use.

For that reason, it claims, Mindshare has split EMEA, which consists of 42 markets, into three distinct clusters, each with its own chief executive. MEC, meanwhile, has created the new role of chairman North Europe for George, working across a manageable nine markets. The argument is that this will provide the opportunity for Glanvill and George to make a real difference in delivering a strategy and ensuring a consistency of offering across their respective fiefdoms.

So, all in all, it looks like some enlightened thinking has led to a change in the way that the agencies have structured themselves, which could have a profound effect on the way that they operate.

An alternative view is that both agencies have realised that they have got ambitious and talented people that they rate who have been stuck in jobs for too long but their bosses have not yet left, so have been put in holding positions. Either way, it will help alleviate the stultifying management stasis that was in danger of becoming a career blood clot of its own and allow them and others to grow their careers.