PERSPECTIVE: GGT’s woes began not with Trott, but with City flotation

You’d need a heart of stone not to have felt some sympathy for Mike Greenlees this week, and I’ve encountered a few. He’s made many friends and a few enemies during his rollercoaster ride with GGT but it seems he’ll never join the global big swinging dick club.

You’d need a heart of stone not to have felt some sympathy for Mike

Greenlees this week, and I’ve encountered a few. He’s made many friends

and a few enemies during his rollercoaster ride with GGT but it seems

he’ll never join the global big swinging dick club.



As I write, he is locked in a London hotel room with one or other

representative of Omnicom’s John Wren - an important member of the

aforementioned club.



As Greenlees listens blankly to the banks of lawyers ratcheting up their

fees, he will no doubt reflect that his burning desire to be in that

elite group proved his undoing. As one illustrious contemporary put it,

how much more simple life would have been if he’d just stayed at Boase

Massimi Pollitt and run the agency that everyone loves to love.



We’ve wandered into that peculiarly British trait - feeling suspicious

of those who try to succeed. Gold Greenlees Trott was one of the second

wave of agencies that transformed British advertising. Born on the cusp

of the 80s, Abbott Mead Vickers, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Lowe

Howard-Spink, WCRS and GGT soon became the establishment. Like the

slightly older Saatchi & Saatchi, they excelled creatively and

financially, defining London’s unique advertising marketplace.



Unlike the others (with some licence for Frank Lowe and Robin Wight),

Greenlees parted with his key creative partner. Many, particularly in

Soho, feel Dave Trott’s departure in 1990 changed GGT forever.



They’d be wrong. GGT changed by floating in 1986. Like the Saatchis,

Wight and entrepreneurs such as Roddick and Branson before him,

Greenlees found that running a plc is another country.



To put it bluntly, GGT is no longer his. It belongs to its shareholders

and their inexorable demands for growth. It’s what fuelled his bid for

BDDP in the first place - a bid commentators like me lauded because he

had no realistic alternative. If he wanted to join the global big

swinging dick club, that is.



If you want to know what its members are really like, read about John

Wren in the first of our Kings of Madison Avenue series (p24). Wait till

you read the Ed Meyer and Phil Geier stories. Greenlees isn’t really

like them. Like Martin Sorrell, they have a genuinely global outlook and

treat the prospect of merging TBWA and GGT, for example, with

equanimity. If Compaq can buy Digital, they can buy GGT. They’re not

bothered by little local personnel difficulties, such as re-uniting

Trevor Beattie with his old creative department. But it was a little

local personnel difficulty that cost dollars 125 million worth of

Procter & Gamble business.



I hope that Omnicom looks after GGT’s anxious staff, and that Greenlees

makes a little money in the process and suffers a little less stress.



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