Opinion: Perspective - Integration meant Haines had to fall on his sword

Leo Burnett London has a new chief executive this week. While other agencies might thrash around in a desperate search for senior talent, Burnett seems to have glided effortlessly from one leader to another.

But Bruce Haines' decision to step down from the top job clearly follows some rather uncomfortable politicking behind the scenes. The official press release announcing the appointment of Andrew Edwards admits as much: Haines has resigned "following a disagreement over the future structure of the group". And Burnett's low-key global chief, Tom Bernardin (known as Bernie Inn), has pointedly demurred from paying any tribute to Haines' work at the agency over the past six years.

So what went wrong? By all accounts, Burnett has been delivering rosy margins and is a Publicis Groupe financial powerhouse in the UK, though its new- business record is hardly dazzling and its creative work is still patchy. Haines has been following a plan towards a more integrated group offering, bringing the creative agency's limp sister brand, Arc, into the Burnett fold. All very sensible and future-facing. A tighter structure requires fewer chiefs, though, and something, someone, had to give.

But who? Most obviously either Edwards or Burnett's managing director, Paul Lawson, would be surplus to requirements in a new, leaner integrated group structure. Edwards, the European chief of Arc, is clearly something of a favourite with Bernardin, although Arc has resolutely failed to amount to much in London, reportedly with margins to make a grown financial director weep. And Edwards has zero-profile on the mainstream ad scene, although it seems this is no handicap as far as his US paymasters are concerned.

If Edwards is Bernardin's man, then Lawson has been Haines' man. Lawson is a real lynchpin of the creative agency, with the creative director, Jonathan Burley, the marketing director, Nina Jasinki, and the planning director, Ali Bucknall, all part of the Lawson team.

If it came to a choice between who to promote as his number two in a new group structure, there was no way Haines could see Lawson squeezed out in favour of Edwards. So, in defence of his own authority and the team he has built up, Haines has quit. Ultimately, however, this seems to have been the most satisfactory solution for Bernardin, too.

Anyway, the end result is the creation of a new integrated group offer, with Lawson overseeing both Burnett and Arc on a day-to-day basis, reporting to Edwards. Edwards' challenge now is to win over the creative agency staff for whom he is now a figurehead, while establishing himself in the creative agency space; the fact that he's Bernardin's man won't count for much on either score.

Last week, Campaign hosted a round-table debate on integration. It was one of those debates with so many layers, perspectives and interpretations that there were only two main conclusions. First, every agency wants to be and needs to be integrated, either within themselves or with other like-minded, complementary client-focused teams. Second, no agency or group is really integrated yet, and many never truly will be.

Yet, some consensus did emerge on who will take the lead in this integrated future. Almost everyone around the table (creative agencies, media agencies, media owners, groups) agreed integration requires a new type of uber-planner with a holistic perspective. Part-account planner, part-strategic planner, part-media planner, ingrained in an understanding of their clients' business and consumers.

Of course, while this all sounds great in theory, most people working in the business today have grown up in a siloed agency world, where their appreciation of other disciplines is patchy at best. Agencies are starting to acknowledge all that has been lost in the process of disintegration, but it will take years to put that right.


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