At first sight, David Jones’s appointment to the group chairman’s
role at DMB&B is a curious one. A kneejerk reaction might be to raise an
eyebrow that a manager so steeped in the traditions of Collett Dickenson
Pearce and Lowe Howard-Spink should move to a group currently conducting
the largest attempt at full-scale integration in the London industry,
and one whose advertising agency - rightly or otherwise - has never been
associated with the values of Jones’s former agencies. Jones’s image is
as unlike that of the departing chairman, John Farrell, as you will
find. Perhaps therein lies the attraction.
Farrell was much maligned when he first took the job, partly because of
the fondness in which the former bosses, Graham Hinton and Tony Douglas,
were held around town, but mostly because he was easily pigeon-holed as
a ’shelf-wobbler’, and such types don’t understand advertising,
He has since demonstrated that, at the very worst, he is more than
capable of running an agency group, and improving its performance. He
has let his agency managers, Barry Cook and Jeremy Pemberton, take the
lead, and the quality of the output has steadily improved. However, the
new-business performance has not kept pace with these improvements. If
anything, DMB&B is guilty of not marketing itself as strongly as its
The agency also suffers from a peculiar problem that several other
groups might wish to have: the relative strength of the Media Centre and
IMP, both of which continue to thrive in their respective fields. This
happy situation somehow contrives to make the agency appear less dynamic
by comparison. And, to compound this problem, like McCann-Erickson, Grey
and Ammirati Puris Lintas, it already had to work harder to convince
people of its creative capabilities.
Enter Jones, rescued from the club-class circuit, anxious to stop
putting out fires for others and start a few himself.
One of his more pressing tasks will be to replace some of the new
business lost in the past two years: Budweiser, Royal Mail, Whiskas and
Burger King. This means marketing a better product that includes work
for Fiat, Umbro and Littlewoods.
Jones is not alone in this - more of the onus will now fall on Cook, and
perhaps there is room for another senior hiring. The best agencies
around town today need to have a greater strength in depth at top
Anyone believing that he will impose old-fashioned structures on the
place must be mistaken. Farrell, for one, would not have been involved
in appointing such a successor, and even more obviously the market in
general appears to be heading in the DMB&B group’s way. Jones must now
make sure the agency gets a bigger slice too. Much depends on how hungry
he still is.