PERSPECTIVE: Managing directors set an agency’s tone so casting is crucial

I hadn’t intended to write any more about Wieden & Kennedy London on the basis that if you can’t say something good about an agency, it’s best to say nothing at all. But with the surprise appointment of the WCRS marketing director, Amy Lawson, to the role of managing director of W&K London, it’s time to recognise the triumph of hope over experience and have another go.

I hadn’t intended to write any more about Wieden & Kennedy London

on the basis that if you can’t say something good about an agency, it’s

best to say nothing at all. But with the surprise appointment of the

WCRS marketing director, Amy Lawson, to the role of managing director of

W&K London, it’s time to recognise the triumph of hope over experience

and have another go.



W&K’s troubled history in London since 1998 offers ample evidence of the

truth of the saying that an agency’s only real asset is its people. A

stream of talent has been hired and dispensed with at an alarming speed,

requiring (or, you could easily argue, because of) heavy intervention by

the US parent. The founding managing director, Mike Perry, the creative

directors Nick Gill and Adam Kean and the recently departed managing

director, Hugh Derrick, have all thrived at other agencies but not at

W&K.



I’d suggest that the fundamental issue here is one of miscasting the

managing director. Perry, who now works for himself but carved a

formidable reputation as the account man on Nike at Simons Palmer, is a

better soloist than he is a team leader. Similarly, Derrick, hired out

of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, is better suited to working in a big agency

environment. Both are technically gifted without being suited to the

task of carrying an agency’s cultural baton.



Will Lawson necessarily fare any better? Well, time will tell. The

new-business department - sorry, we have to call it the marketing

department now - is not the obvious route to the top of an agency, so

this will be the first time that her general management skills will be

allowed out of the closet to work alongside her well-stocked client

Rolodex.



Undeniably, her energy for the task in hand far exceeds that of her two

predecessors. She’s a good spinner, and adept at using charm and humour

rather than blunt coercion to get her way. And it remains as true as

ever that there is always room, even in this most crowded of advertising

markets, for an independent agency brand. As long as the bedrock client

Nike remains faithful, and with the addition of yet another talented

creative director, there is everything to play for.



Finally, and with this week’s front page news that its media pitch has

ended, I would like to put on record what an improved organisation COI

Communications (to use its new name) is. By definition it can’t please

everybody, and there are probably ways it could improve still further,

but I reckon it’s reached the stage where it satisfies as many people as

it’s possible to do - while, incidentally, having one of the best reels

in town. How nice to be able to say that about a stuffy government body

that cannot offer anything like the kind of salaries paid to agency

people in the unreal world, and how rarely we get the chance.



caroline.marshall@haynet.com.



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