PERSPECTIVE: Carter must learn: All JWT’s ’troubles’ are of his making

’JWT is not at the top of its game. We have had a quiet year in new business, and the work we are producing is not as good as it should be.’ Blimey! Stephen Carter, the ambitious new JWT chief executive, said that, not us. Come to think of it, that’s what we did write in February’s school report: ’The year, although hardly satisfactory, was not a total write-off.’ JWT received a score of five, or adequate. And we got our heads bitten off.

’JWT is not at the top of its game. We have had a quiet year in new

business, and the work we are producing is not as good as it should be.’

Blimey! Stephen Carter, the ambitious new JWT chief executive, said

that, not us. Come to think of it, that’s what we did write in

February’s school report: ’The year, although hardly satisfactory, was

not a total write-off.’ JWT received a score of five, or adequate. And

we got our heads bitten off.



The statement belongs to the school of what aficionados of the ’yummy

mummy’ circuit would call ’tough love’. Some readers have expressed

surprise at both the content and provenance of Carter’s candour.



JWT has problems some agencies dream of. It’s a blue-chip machine whose

ability to nurture brands over decades is second to none. Until

recently, 40 Berkeley Square has avoided the ’local office of a

multinational’ tag that some of its peers suffer. Its work, though

rarely a nine or ten, would seldom dip into the turkey zone, Chicken

Tonight notwithstanding.



It always had the ability to win the major local prizes that eluded

other multinationals. It has nurtured a succession of top-class managers

and maintained a reputation for a spread of senior management

talent.



But today, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has stolen both its positioning and

its number one position in London. Of late, the creative work has, on

occasion, tried too hard, as if JWT was embarrassed by the very

qualities that make it special. It has resorted to waving about yet

another agency marketing device - Thompson Total Branding - and there is

some internal unrest, particularly about the increasing influence of JWT

Europe, and a rather flabby creative department.



Above all, JWT seems bereft of senior management with any market

profile.



Some may argue this does not matter, that this was ever the JWT way.

Perhaps.



But the argument used to be made despite the fact that the people at the

top were industry-renowned. But what JWT lacks glaringly compared with

the current successful agencies, big and small, is that spread of senior

talent. Given that ’access to senior talent’ regularly tops many

clients’ wish-lists, Carter’s decision not to appoint a managing

director (at least), seems almost foolhardy.



The agency will sorely miss Dominic Proctor’s human touch. Carter and

the creative director, Jaspar Shelbourne, appear very similar types to

the outside eye. Talented as they may prove to be, they are consistently

up against very heavyweight line-ups at AMV, BMP, M&C Saatchi, Lowe

Howard-Spink and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, not to mention the current

momentum of shops such as Euro RSCG, Rainey Kelly and St Luke’s.



One point about Carter’s quote: hasn’t he been the managing director for

the past three years? Discuss.



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