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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