Walsh offers Lowe a chance of calm after thestorm

So Lowe has found its woman. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Amanda Walsh's appointment is that it has taken so long to sign off. From the moment she quit United in May, Walsh's name has been linked with the Lowe challenge.

Let's face it, London's not awash with great chief executive candidates right now, and who's going to give up a comfortable job to take a risk at an agency as troubled as this one? I doubt that there was a stampede of applicants when Garry Lace was ousted from Lowe's chief executive chair earlier this year. If I say Lace is a hard act to follow, you'll get my drift. And heck, Lowe without its defining Tesco account is, anyway, a shadow of its former self.

Meanwhile, Walsh has been kicking her heels for a few months and seems ready for her next challenge. Talking to her, there's no sense that here's a woman with something to prove - she remains resolutely straightforward, realistic and enthusiastic. But if you cast your mind over her recent career (the forgettable Walsh Trott Chick Smith and the ultimately disappointing United), you can't help but feel Walsh still has a reservoir of unfulfilled potential.

Fans - and there are plenty of them - say Walsh is smart, polished, tenacious and fun. And do not underestimate the USP of the female agency chief executive. Lowe of old was the stomping ground for the testosterone-fuelled ego pursuing its own agenda. Walsh's appointment is a very clear and symbolic breaking of the mould. Or "the dawn of a new era," as one old-timer puts it with a sense of utter relief.

If there's a downside to her appointment, it's perhaps that Walsh seems at heart a traditional operator, groomed in the old full-service style. It's hard to imagine her landing in Sloane Avenue with a radical shake-up strategy or feverishly proclaiming the death of advertising in the new digital world order. But that's undoubtedly the last thing shell-shocked staff need. After the whirlwind that was Matthew Bull (sadly now slinking back to South Africa) and the drama of Lace, Walsh represents normality. Expect strong leadership, integrity and decency, those who have worked with her before say.

And, actually, I reckon the Lowe job is not quite the hospital pass it might appear. For starters, the agency is pretty much at rock bottom (pending the rumoured exit of Stella Artois, for which Lowe has created some of the most beautiful, heroic advertising); the only way is up, as they say. The recent John Lewis coup is proof that the agency can still do the business.

Then there's the work. It has become a cliche, so often has Campaign said it, but I'll say it again: Lowe remains a bloody good creative agency - one of the best. OK, so managing its executive creative director, Ed Morris - who is locked in with a rumoured £500,000 a year - might prove more of a challenge than managing a less high-profile, less pivotal creative director. But then Walsh is no stranger to working with creative heavyweights - she reported to Andy Berlin at United.

And Morris' stature at Lowe is simply a reflection of why the agency has so much residual potential, despite a car-crash couple of years: the work is still at the core of the agency - and you can't say that of many other UK agencies any more.

At the Edinburgh Television Festival last week there was, as usual, a tangible absence of anyone from adland. Despite the ad industry's continued obsession with TV advertising, the opportunities for longer-length commercials online, and advertisers' growing interest in branded content, agencies seem reluctant to take advantage of the learning opportunities the Festival represents. Meanwhile, the independent production companies grow ever keener to forge their own relationships with advertisers and get their hands on commercial budgets. Ad agencies ignore this threat at their peril.


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