With astonishing prescience, this year’s Campaign A List predicted that 2017 could be the year when Sarah Golding showed her true mettle. Just one day later she was unveiled as the new president of the IPA – only the second woman to fulfil that role – and a week later her appointment as sole chief executive of CHI & Partners was confirmed, following Nick Howarth’s shunt into a position at The & Partnership.
On the second point, the move looks long overdue – having joint chief executives seems like an internal management fudge, designed perhaps to appease competing egos rather than devise and execute a clear leadership plan. Perhaps that’s why J Walter Thompson London has finally disbanded its triumvirate executive partnership model that could be construed as something akin to a Christian fellowship rather than a strategic necessity.
Congratulations is due to James Whitehead for getting the chief executive job title at JWT, but I can’t help feeling that the presence of the charismatic Joe Petyan, who has moved to a European role, will be missed at the agency and the wider London advertising scene. Quite what the restructure means for Russell Ramsey, who has reverted back to executive creative director, having been an executive partner for the past four years, is the subject of speculation. But I hope he too hangs around a bit longer – he gives JWT a much-needed edge (and maybe a dose of reality from beyond the public school ties and dormitory banter the agency is, rightly or wrongly, famous for).
But back to Golding. It would be fatuous to say that she will bring a different perspective to the IPA – that’s the whole point of rotating the presidency every two years. But the no-nonsense and smart Golding is likely to have already made her mind up on what she wants to change and how she’s going to achieve it, although I’m sure she must have slight regrets helping the current IPA president Tom Knox articulate the "here for good" agenda that he has so successfully campaigned for during his incumbency, as she forges her own. We’ll have to wait until next March before Golding’s agenda becomes clear.
Her willingness to balance the two demanding roles are evidence of Golding’s energy – previous IPA presidents (besides the other woman to fill that role, Nicola Mendelsohn) have tended to be, if not in the twilight of their career, then close to having achieved everything they probably wanted to professionally and financially. Look at Knox, and his predecessors Ian Priest and David Pattison. Mendelsohn used her time as president to forge greater links with Silicon Valley, which then went on to offer her a lucrative job.
Golding, however, shows no sign of slowing down, and gently resting her feet on one of the drawing tables in Belgravia Square is unlikely to be on the cards – hence her simultaneous acceptance of the sole CEO role at CHI, which she is sure to give as energetic a kick up the bracket as she is the industry through the IPA. Personally I can’t wait to see what happens next.