NEWSMAKER/JEAN-MARIE DRU: Self-assured TBWA president set to make a mark at Cannes - ’Achieving the impossible’ is the hope of Jean-Marie Dru, Emma Hall discovers

Jean-Marie Dru is used to being in the global spotlight. What with the ups and downs of his French agency network, BDDP, and his much-publicised haggling for status within TBWA, Dru has excited a lot of interest since he and three partners founded BDDP in 1984.

Jean-Marie Dru is used to being in the global spotlight. What with

the ups and downs of his French agency network, BDDP, and his

much-publicised haggling for status within TBWA, Dru has excited a lot

of interest since he and three partners founded BDDP in 1984.

Next week, when Dru chairs the jury at the 45th Cannes International

Advertising Festival, he will be in the spotlight for different


It seems unlikely the self-assured Frenchman will have any difficulty

defending the decisions about who gets this year’s lions.

Mark Wnek, the executive creative director of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper,

says: ’He’s a great choice for chairman of the jury. You can guarantee

everything will be fair and above board.’

Dru has the credentials - he started out as a creative in 1971 at Dupuy

Compton. He rose to become creative director of the agency but moved

disciplines in 1978 to become managing director of Young & Rubicam

Paris. Dru has remained in management ever since and is well known for

being a good team motivator who is also well respected by clients.

It is thought Dru was in a powerful position when negotiating his status

after the takeover of GGT BDDP by the Omnicom-owned TBWA. As is the

French way, Dru has a close handle on many of the BDDP clients and

keeping him happy was a priority for John Wren, Omnicom’s chairman, if

the deal was to pay off. Rumours of a tempting offer to return to Y&R

strengthened his hand.

’He’s an impressive character with enormous physical presence,’ Paul

Simons, chairman of the TBWA UK Group, says. ’As soon as he walks into a

room, he influences what’s going on.’ But he also ’looks like a man with

the worries of the world on his shoulders’.

With his Gallic charm, Dru stands out from his peers in the

international advertising arena. More than six feet tall, with an

extraordinarily deep suntan and a hearty handshake, he maintains an

insouciant air of wealth and success, despite the series of

well-documented failures and triumphs that have attended his career.

In 1988, four years after he started BDDP, the agency’s billings had

reached dollars 70 million without having made any acquisitions and the

fledgling network had also achieved a presence in Belgium, Germany and

Italy. Feeling infallible in 1989, Dru made an audacious and

unsuccessful bid for Boase Massimi Pollitt and resorted to backing the

1990 launch of Bainsfair Sharkey Trott in London. By 1992, BDDP had hit

financial problems and in 1996 it was acquired by GGT. When Omnicom

bought BDDP GGT earlier this year, Dru had to relinquish his idea of

creating a global network and with it his title as chairman of BDDP


Instead, Dru grasped the opportunity offered by Omnicom to become

president and chief executive of TBWA International, reporting to Wren.

He gave up his BDDP dominion but was compensated by a top job in a

stronger - and truly global - operation.

Even Maurice Levy, the chairman of Publicis Worldwide, who declares an

open rivalry with Dru, admits: ’If he focuses on new business and

strategy, he has the skills, talent and energy to make a success. The

Omnicom and TBWA structures will complement his weaknesses.’ Weaknesses?

It has been said that Dru lacks the vision and the realism that might

have made a success of BDDP. For now, though, he has manoeuvred himself

into a seemingly strong position in the TBWA network.

Simons explains: ’He wants to make his mark on the world and he has the

energy, passion, leadership and determination to do it.’

Dru has already made a mark with his book, Disruption, which was

published in 1996. Subtitled Overturning Conventions and Shaking Up the

Marketplace, the book outlines a three-step process which readers can

use to deconstruct the ways in which successful businesses innovate in

their marketplaces.

Dru offers such observations as: ’(Companies) can no longer surf the

wave; instead they must become the wind that creates the wave.’

Dave Trott, who was a partner in the BDDP-backed BST, is not impressed

by Dru’s book or the French approach in general. ’They think that just

by defining a problem they have found the solution,’ he says.

But Dru’s opinion is still courted around the world and, heading the

Cannes jury, he will undoubtedly look for a bit of the Disruption (his

capitals) he prizes. Dru’s own best example of Disruption is a BDDP Tag

Heuer campaign. Tag wanted to reposition itself as a luxury watch, while

keeping its sports appeal. Its previous approach had been to use sports

celebrity endorsements but, to upgrade the watch’s status, it needed to

offer a new perspective. Going inside the athlete’s head, the campaign

creates imaginary adversaries: a shark for the swimmer, a razor blade

for the hurdler. Dru explains that the concept of surpassing oneself and

of mental strength was a message relevant to a sports and luxury


Disruption will not be on the agenda at Cannes. Dru explains: ’It is a

personal thing for me and my agency and it is about strategy rather than

creativity. Besides, Cannes has a jury of 26 people.’

Since 1973, Dru has been to Cannes every year except one - ironically it

was the year that BDDP won three gold lions.

He has a wish-list for this year’s festival. ’I want to do something

impossible - to have local campaigns recognised. Judging has become very

automatic recently. I want to bring in more discussion and


He would also be happy to see relative newcomers such as Slovenia or

Russia rewarded, and promises that there will be a Grand Prix awarded in

both the print and film categories. ’It is impossible not to have a

Grand Prix,’ he says. ’I only hope we find one that’s more than just a

nice ad - it should be a new way of talking.’


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