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
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.’