Agency Management – Echoes of the Past

Disclosure – I have done work in the past for the7stars, mentioned here

Last week’s Cog Blog noted that out of the six major holding companies, the UK heads of three of them (Havas, Starcom, Carat) along with the EMEA President of OMD have all announced their departures.

People leave their jobs for all sorts of reasons, of course, and no-one is suggesting some sort of weird collaboration designed to undermine the entire holding company sector, but you have to admit it is unusual for four such senior figures to leave at pretty well the same time.

Gideon Spanier, in a ‘Campaign’ article argued that agencies need to change, that change needs leadership, and that leadership seems to be in short supply.

There is an echo of the old days when media agencies were but a twinkle in a few eyes. Back then, full-service agency media directors left their comfortable, well-paid roles to set up what were then called media independents. People like Chris Ingram (of CIA, now MEC); David Reich and Ray Kelly (TMD, later Carat); Alan Rich (The Media Business later MediaCom) and several others all took a huge risk.

Their reasons were primarily to do with the lack of respect full-service managements had for their positions, and the fact that they weren’t as fully involved as they might have been in decisions on the agency’s direction of travel. Within any full-service agency, media delivered the majority of revenue, whilst accounting for a below-average share of costs. Media was truly ‘below stairs’.

This of course changed dramatically as a result of the risks taken by the people mentioned above. Others (like Nick Manning and Colin Gottlieb, Jonathan Durden, David Pattison, and Nick Horswill) formed a successful second wave, which with the agency-owned operations like Zenith led us to the dynamic sector we’re all familiar with.

The business was led by true risk-takers and entrepreneurs.

But look around today’s industry (even before the purge of last week). I wouldn’t claim to know Pippa Glucklich, Nikki Mendonca, Tracey de Groose, or Paul Frampton well although no doubt all are strong leaders. All sit within large organisations over which they have perhaps less influence than they would like.

… read on at

Originally posted by Brian Jacobs on The Cog Blog at BJ&A
19th October 2017