I was delighted to see my VVDCPF (very very dear close personal friend) Garry Lace return to Adland last week as CEO of my old alma mater Lowe London. While my affection and regard for the Lacemeister know no bounds, his exit from his last job as CEO of Grey London was highly controversial and there are many who revelled in it. The latter group of duffers and malcontents will not only be appalled to see him back, but also will already be plotting and scheming and spinning his undoing.
What happened at Grey, in a nutshell, is that, 18 months or so into the job, Lace seized the opportunity to be part of a management buyout of Air Miles, a Grey client. Rumours about this were leaked to the industry's great and good (little oxymoron for you there) via a bizarre anonymous e-mail sent from an internet café in Tottenham Court Road in London.
The world and his wife - and most particularly (and hurtfully for Lace) trade rag Campaign, Lace's erstwhile champions - didn't have anything like the full facts, but, with Campaign's prompting, Lace was declared guilty as hell of ... well, to this day, nobody has really specified what it was that Garry was supposed to be guilty of.
Many of the accusations levelled at Lace fold under any kind of scrutiny. The four most frequent accusations were that, 1) Lace had fired a huge amount of people at Grey only to leave 18 months later: erm, that's what he was hired to do and he didn't enjoy one minute of it; 2) he had lured a group of brilliant young people from their agencies to Grey only to leave 18 months later: erm, yes, do you think their arrival had something to do with their massive new salaries, too? 3) He was highly extravagant with Grey funds, doing lavish entertaining etc: erm, this didn't seem to bother Grey supreme Ed Meyer while Lace was still in the job.
Indeed, in answer to Campaign editor Caroline Marshall's article asking whether Lace was doing a good job a year in, Meyer unprecedentedly sent a letter to Campaign in which he gave his answer to Marshall's question as "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!" 4) Lace built up his own PR and not Grey's: erm, on the basis that Lace was the only hot thing that had happened to Grey UK in 2,000 years how could you separate Grey and Lace's PR? Anyway, the Adland malcontents' prayers were answered when the Air Miles MBO failed and Lace was left in the wilderness.
That Tony Wright, the incoming young CEO of Lowe Worldwide, should be the one to bring Lace back in from the cold is a testament to Wright's judgement, not to mention his balls and, I suspect, to the powers of advocacy of headhunter extraordinaire Gay Haines. Quite rarely for a denizen of Adland, Wright seems to understand that mistakes make you better and stronger, and there is no question that, in Lace, he has landed the most charismatic leader in the UK.
In Paul Weinberger, Lowe London chairman, Lace will have a steadying hand if, after the sobering events of the past 12 months, he still needs one.
I haven't talked to Lace about any of this, but my guess would be that he will try to surround himself with people he knows and trusts as soon as he possibly can - if I were TBWA I would be contractually nailing down their brilliant strategy supremo Neil Dawson right about now; he will play to the embattled Lowe's strengths: its powerful backbone of Tesco, its heritage as a big serious player with big serious blue chip brands; he will try to re-establish Lowe with GM/Vauxhall.
In short, he'll do everything within his considerable powers to stop Lowe's slide into boutique-dom and put it back in the top three where it belongs.
Acutely aware of the backbiters and the spinners waiting around the corner with their baseball bats, Lace will, I suspect, try to do all this while retaining the lowest profile he possibly can.
Nobody knows better than the Lacemeister that playtime is over as he enters the last-chance saloon.
Separating the Adland men from the boys
Not for the first time in my new calling of observing the higgledy-piggledy mess that Advertising is becoming, I'm confused.
The new Dove work from Ogilvy is, in my view, more or less universally excellent. If you've been living under a rock over the last couple of weeks and missed the hoo-ha about it, it's called the Campaign for Real Beauty, and features unconventionally lovely women - bigger and older than the fashion world's borderline anorexic norm.
It's no surprise to discover that the elegantly conceived Dove work was created by one of the most creative people around, the brilliant art director Dennis Lewis, the former creative director of permanently hot shop Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
Dennis is somewhere in his early fifties, but irritatingly manages to look late-twenties-ish. Maybe he'll feature in the campaign for Dove men. Lewis is also a fantastic people and client person: I defy you to find anyone with a bad word to say about him.
Here's the confusing, higgledy-piggledy part, which - apologies in advance - I feel best able to explain using a football analogy. At Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, who is aged 60-odd, is the manager, while the younger, less-experienced Carlos Queiroz is his No 2. Manchester United is brilliantly successful.
At Ogilvy London, some 30-year-old called Malcolm Poynton (who he?) is creative director, while the legendary Dennis Lewis works on Dove (would Dennis ever have allowed the substandard item in today's "Worst in Show" to run? Er, no!) Ogilvy London, needless to say, is not doing brilliantly.
WNEK'S WORST IN SHOW FORD FOCUS
I've been fighting it, but I can't hold my tongue any longer over Ogilvy's über-dull Ford work, featuring a fictional world-famous fashion designer and the new Focus. Funnily enough, I admire the market leader for this attempt at doing something a bit, well, fun, but the writing is so poor. When the designer gets in the car, he sits there looking appalled when he's supposed, I suppose, to appear delighted. He looks as if he's thinking, "What am I doing in this horrible little car?" And why cast a guy who looks like a bank robber and then have to give him a little dog to tone down the effect? There are so many more whys but above all it's too busy for the complete lack of funniness, a pointless kerfuffle which distracts you from noticing the car.Reuse content