PERSPECTIVE: O&M faces prospect of still more turmoil in light of Bury’s exit

Tom Bury is a decent man who wore his affection for, and belief in, Ogilvy & Mather on his sleeve for the 14 years that he worked there.

Tom Bury is a decent man who wore his affection for, and belief in,

Ogilvy & Mather on his sleeve for the 14 years that he worked there.

Nothing better illustrated his desire for Ogilvy’s success than the

origins of his nickname, ’Chuck’. Told by the chairman, Mike Walsh, that

he was to be the new managing director, Bury went to an agency bathroom

and threw up.

Bury was client services director, having excelled on both Guinness and

Ford since joining from Young & Rubicam where he’d worked on Procter &

Gamble and the COI.

This week’s events bear some resemblance to the circumstances

surrounding his appointment after Mike Elms’s departure. Elms, the

workaholic former media director, was devoted to the agency, regarded as

a ’friend of Mike’s’ but criticised for lacking the personal touch.

The big difference is in the fortunes of the agency. It’s true that in

1992, like today, O&M was in the top three with its creative product


However, it was also enjoying a good new-business run. Elms’s

’redeployment’ was a surprise.

Bury’s exit - however sad - isn’t. It would be unfair for him to carry

the can alone for the Ford Europe disaster, but he has assumed some

responsibility for the departures of Guinness, Bupa and others, along

with the recent series of high-profile personnel exits.

It’s common knowledge that Walsh has been seeking a new chairman - the

only uncertainty being how much Bury knew of his role in the new pecking

order. And, it is difficult to argue against the need for such a


As we’ve observed before, the best agencies - BMP, Abbott Mead, Lowes

and M&C Saatchi today; J. Walter Thompson and Saatchis in their heyday -

have a spread of heavyweight management not currently evident at O&M. To

win the best business and hire the best young talent, you must compete

with the best senior line-ups. Objectively, it’s a logical argument. But

when you’re in the eye of the storm, you can’t be objective.

The pressure has long been showing at O&M. Bury always appeared to need

more help. His difficulties highlight once again the world of difference

between being a very good account director or creative, and being the

managing director, chief executive or creative director.

There’s unquestionably a morale problem for O&M’s new chairman to


But despite the endless public denials, it’s hard to see this being

fully resolved until the agency bites the bullet and leaves the Canary

Wharf offices which have cost it so much talent over the past five


Bury will get another good job, perhaps not in advertising. But O&M will

have to go through more upheaval. The new chairman must be given the

budget to bring in other top-level hirings if the agency is to continue

to compete with the best.

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