Jem Lloyd-Williams was walking to the pub with his boss Tracy De Groose, chief executive of Dentsu Aegis Network UK, when he was offered a promotion to managing director of Vizeum.
"She very casually mentioned it," Lloyd-Williams says. "It was the best walk to the pub I ever had."
He has stepped up after two years at Vizeum as executive director for product development and innovation, knowing that two leading clients, BMW and 21st Century Fox, are reviewing and there could be a closed pitch against WPP agencies to keep a third, Ikea.
Lloyd-Williams, who started his career in TV ad sales in the 1990s before moving into digital marketing and then spending six years at MediaCom, says the media landscape is changing so quickly that agencies need to show clients that they can adapt.
"The way you can reach people and make your messages contextually relevant has changed," he says.
"It can be more effective because of the precision with which you can deliver specific messages. The plan is to make sure we have all of those skills and technical abilities within our business, so we can deliver advantage for our clients through communications more effectively than anyone else."
The media landscape is changing so quickly that agencies need to show clients that they can adapt.
Lloyd-Williams doesn’t claim to be reinventing the agency. Vizeum will remain a planning business – but the planners are adding more strings to their bows, he says. That fits with Dentsu Aegis’ wider strategy of selling clients a range of services from data to content across the group.
"It feels like it’s the right time to give clients advice from a media perspective. Helping them with digital transformation or developing different propositions or appealing to different audiences – I think we’re getting the skills in place to do that," Lloyd-Williams says.
He has replaced Richard Morris, now chief growth officer for EMEA across Dentsu Aegis, and his first move has been to shake up his team. In came former MediaCom pal Kirsti Wenn as chief operating officer – replacing Jo Sutherland – while business director Tim Jones has been promoted to chief client officer.
The challenge will be execution and "making sure the strategy is properly followed through", according to one observer, who notes that Amplifi, Dentsu Aegis’ media buying operation, is run separately.
However, that separation doesn’t trouble Sally Abbott, group marketing director at Weetabix and a client. "It seems to work really well," she says. "The planners seem really insightful and that is translating into strong programmes with keen pricing."
Lloyd-Williams went to school in Wimbledon and studied history at the University of Birmingham. He ended up in sales at Thames Television thanks to a tip-off from a friend’s brother, Kelly Williams, managing director of commercial at ITV, who was a junior TV sales executive at the time.
Lloyd-Williams comes across as someone who knows how to party. He is an "energiser", according to Luke Bozeat, joint managing director at MediaCom London, who recalls how his former colleague would get people to show off their dance moves to lighten up the start of a meeting.
Client Zoe Harris, group marketing director at Trinity Mirror, likes his "refreshing, can-do" attitude. "He always takes some time to [consider my queries] and comes back with insightful thinking," she says.
For Lloyd-Williams, a father of two young daughters, his biggest concern beyond Vizeum is Britain leaving the European Union. "Our industry is built on people and my hope is that Brexit doesn’t make it less attractive for people to come and work here," he says.
"Businesses live and die on the talent they attract." And, he might add, given Vizeum’s to-do list, the clients they entice.