Media: All about ... Top media network jobs

Have the holding companies got their houses in order, Alasdair Reid asks.

It's not every day that one of the top media network jobs becomes vacant. There are, obviously, only a handful of media agency holding companies these days, and it's rare for one holding company to headhunt from a rival. Not at the highest levels. So, when you reach the top, there aren't many options if you decide to seek fresh challenges.

Unless, as the OMD worldwide president and chief executive, Joe Uva, did last week, you opt to leap over to the media owner side. He's avoided the obvious - joining one of the big networks, for instance, or a media megalith such as News Corp. He's decided instead to join Univision, the leading Spanish-language media company in the US.

Interesting choice. Brave, even. But perhaps not so surprising when you recall that Uva has a long track record on the media owner side, having spent 17 years at Turner Broadcasting System. As the president of sales and marketing of Turner Entertainment Group, he'd been responsible for airtime sales at a whole range of Turner cable stations, including TBS Superstation, TNT and Cartoon Network.

Uva's departure is a reminder that we've not quite attained the end of history as far as the evolution of media agency structures is concerned. Some observers had begun to suspect the big holding companies had finally nailed this. But, actually, these are interesting times at the major media networks.

1. Omnicom's media structure has been relatively unstable of late - though not, admittedly, half as unstable as Interpublic's. Still, to lose one network boss is unfortunate, to lose two in close succession is arguably careless. Uva's departure follows the resignation of David Pattison, the worldwide chief executive of Omnicom's second-string media network PHD.

The aftermath of Pattison's departure raised doubts about the unity of the Omnicom media product, because it has triggered much internal bickering about Pattison's "legacy". It has emerged that he was seen by many in the Omnicom hierarchy as an awkward customer.

And it reopens the debate about the matrix structure of Omnicom's media product. The boss of a national operating company will have reporting responsibilities through the media agency network, ultimately to its chief executive. But he or she will also plug into the regional structure of Omnicom Media Group. OMG's European chief executive, for instance, is Colin Gottlieb. Furthermore, the OPera media negotiation structure is operated as a separately resourced joint venture between PHD and OMD.

The departures of Pattison and especially Uva put the spotlight once more on Daryl Simm, the worldwide chief executive of OMG, who will now also become, on an interim basis, the worldwide chief executive of OMD.

2. Meanwhile, Interpublic has been unravelling the IPG Media superstructure it had belatedly begun to put in place around its media properties. IPG Media's chief executive had been Mark Rosenthal, who has now left the group. Its two media networks will now be allied more closely with partner creative agencies: Intiative, whose worldwide chief executive is Alec Gerster, will partner DraftFCB; while Universal McCann, whose worldwide chief executive is Nick Brien, has closer ties with the McCann Erickson network from which it was spun off more than a decade ago.

3. Publicis Groupe Media has been stable since November 2005, when Jack Klues, the chief executive of Starcom MediaVest Group, stepped up to succeed Roger Haupt as the chairman of PGM. Klues' successor at Starcom MediaVest is Renetta McCann.

4. WPP is the holding company with arguably the cleanest structure and seemingly the lowest staff turnover. Individual agency bosses report through their agency network structures to the worldwide network bosses - Dominic Proctor at MindShare, Alexander Schmidt-Vogel at MediaCom and Charles Courtier at Mediaedge:cia. These bosses report to Irwin Gottlieb, the worldwide chief executive of WPP's umbrella structure, Group M. Gottlieb oversees a global network of Group M units around the world - for instance, Kelly Clark is its European chief executive.

Group M operating units handle joint negotiation duties, territory by territory, and also develop group resource in emerging disciplines such as digital. But individual network agency bosses tend not to report to the Group M structure on either a national or a regional basis.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...

CLIENTS

- Arguably, very little. There are, of course, conversations between senior client executives and network bosses, not least when a business review or a pitch is in the offing. But senior cabinet reshuffles within agencies make very little immediate impact on a day-to-day basis. They can, however, help to send important signals. Many senior network bosses, especially if they've shinned up the greasy pole in the US, can come across as masters of the safe option. Sometimes, though, media networks need something more zesty than bland corporate masters of business admin. Consequently, senior management reshuffles can speak volumes about a network's determination to deliver. It was refreshing, for instance, to hear Renetta McCann, on her promotion to the worldwide chief executive role at Starcom, underlining her commitment to Asia, where the network has work to do in building a presence.

AGENCY NETWORKS

- There are elements of soap opera in the way that the story of these events trickles down - and many of these figures will seem remote to the majority of the network staffers. But the opportunity - as with clients - is to send the right message and to galvanise morale.

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