Opinion: Perspective - With Jim Kelly in charge, Dentsu means business

Finally, the awakening of Dentsu. With Jim Kelly. Whatever your impressions of Dentsu, I reckon this is good news.

A new player bringing new investment and new ambition, and one of the world's biggest (if least understood) advertising behemoths is coming to London with a vengeance.

Dentsu - not a sleeping giant in Europe, a comatose one - has left its presence here (CDP) to drift so badly that you forget it's there. Yet, yet, there's always been that sense that Dentsu could also strike at any moment.

So it's striking. And it should be good for London advertising and good for people who work in the industry. Because Dentsu will be hiring good people, it will be investing in marketing and perhaps even advertising, it will be launching new offices in new countries around Europe, it might even acquire a few agencies, and it will certainly create a new axis of competition. And, my God, we need all of those things.

If you know Jim Kelly, you'll know these things will be executed with all the enthusiasm and energy of a demanding man who thrives on tough challenges. And don't forget that his last ad agency job, running United with Robert Campbell, ended sourly. Kelly, I reckon, has a thirst to prove he can still do it.

Of course, what's really significant about Kelly's hiring is that he's a Brit. Dentsu has finally recognised that it needs local talent to manage its local assets and create a culture in tune with the local climate.

Mind you, recognising it and doing it are most definitely not the same thing. I had a look at some web chat about Dentsu in New York under Tim Andree. It's mostly anonymous and so we should not pay too much attention, but there's still some scepticism over there that Dentsu will ever be anything other than a closed Japanese agency, no matter where it invests its money. And the sex/religion scandal over there (Google it) did nothing to ease Dentsu's integration into the US ad industry.

So Kelly's real challenge will be to hire the best people who are given full licence to create their own culture under the Dentsu banner, while at the same time building on the best practice that Dentsu espouses.

But as any local manager of a global network will tell you, finding a way of working and a business culture that is true to your local roots is extremely difficult, particularly if your client list is largely an international one over which you have little control.

In this last aspect, Kelly is, for the moment, fortunate. Dentsu is so small in Europe that he won't immediately have to bow to a group of international clients demanding uniformity of service and sucking the life out of attempts to establish some local personality. But Dentsu will naturally be hoping to drive more business across its network, so Kelly needs to move quickly to get his European - and particularly his London - markers down.

Now, if I was Kelly and had access to a swag of money, I'd buy something: an agency with a ready-made culture, a good reputation to build on and a strong management team looking for investment to move up some notches. Then Dentsu and all things Japanese won't be so overwhelming. Apparently, Dentsu was looking around a while ago, but of course there's not much worth buying.

The acquisition of the Leeds-based design agency Attik in 2006, of New York's mcgarrybowen last year and the company's eyeing of Razorfish show that Dentsu is prepared to stretch outside its comfort zone. And Dentsu says it has more money for strategic acquisitions, so expect Kelly to be jiggling his coins in front of Europe's best independent creative agencies. A media purchase might also be on the agenda.

What's certainly true is that, with Dentsu stumbling in its domestic market, the pressure is on to deliver significant growth internationally. The giant looks ready for a fight.

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