Stefano Hatfield on Advertising

The figures were fiddled, but where should the buck stop?
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Seifert, the former TBWA New York president and ex-head of Ogilvy & Mather's Office of National Drug Policy account group, is the highest-profile ad executive to be jailed in living memory. Thomas Early, the former Ogilvy finance director, had been sentenced to 14 months and a $10,000 fine only the day before. This sort of thing just doesn't happen in advertising.

But it does in court. The prosecution argued successfully that a $3m shortfall accrued in one year on what was expected to be a lucrative account. As a result, Seifert told staff to either doctor timesheets that had already been submitted, or overstate hours worked to make up the shortfall. Early was privy to this.

It is easy to see how the agency would have been so keen to win the account that it might have over-promised the client, or over-staffed once it got it. Perhaps the agency executives were not used to the sloth with which government agencies can move, weighed down by party politics, political correctness and media scrutiny. The revenue may simply not have flowed as anticipated.

It is equally easy to see how panic set in as the shortfall became apparent. The sum is enough to affect many individuals' bonuses up the corporate food chain, and would surely have been hard to explain to the Ogilvy's WPP masters. Alter a few time sheets? Who's to know?

But something leaves me uneasy about this affair. The buck stopped with Seifert and Early. Did the agency's CEO or national executives really not know or spot that such a shortfall had occurred? That $3m is a hell of a lot of money to be out in one year on an account with annual revenues that might be about $15m. There has been a deafening silence on the matter from Ogilvy's much-admired worldwide CEO, Shelley Lazarus, one of advertising's outstanding leaders.

Judge Richard Berman produced one last surprise. He ordered Seifert to devise a code of conduct for the advertising industry. I guess she'll have the spare time to give it a good go, but to what end is unclear. Agencies everywhere, busy cleaning house, will be agog to see what she comes up with.

SO HAVAS went from Jean Marie Dru to Phillipe Who? Having been rejected by first choice Dru, the TBWA Worldwide boss, Vincent Bollore, the newly installed chairman of Havas last week announced Phillippe Wahl as his CEO.

Wahl is former general manager of the French banking group Caisse D'Epargne, and a top-level business consultant. His appointment alongside Bollore, a noted corporate raider known for acquiring, breaking up and selling off companies, will serve only to fuel further speculation about Havas's future independent status.

Ed Eskandarian, the Arnold Worldwide Partners boss, Fernando Rodes, the CEO of the media buying arm MPG, and Jacques Seguela, Havas chief creative officer and the "s" in RSCG, were made vice chairmen of the group. There are four new managing directors too, tying in some younger managers: Stephane Fouks, Mercedes Erra and Remi Babinet from Euro RSCG France and the Brit David Jones, currently CEO of Euro RSCG New York.

Conspicuous by his absence is Jim Heekin, the worldwide CEO of Euro RSCG. He has been linked with the role of succeeding Ed Meyer as Grey CEO, but is this a smokescreen? If there was nothing in that rumour, this would be a major snub. No mention either of Ben Langdon in London.

So, what now? One prediction is that the charming Eskandarian might buy his Boston-based agency back. It never really became the second global network that Havas hoped for.

Fernando Rodes should also be watched. Under-estimated because he is Spanish, the wily Rodes needs to build up MPG or arrange a merger with another media network, or both. Sir Martin Sorrell will be hovering. Clearly, Rodes is in a good place. He supported Bollore in the latter's struggle with de Pouzilhac, and his father Leopoldo is the head of Havas's strategic committee (on which Fernando sits).

If Heekin does move on, Jones is ready to take over. In fact, it may be harder to keep Jones if Heekin doesn't. Much depends on whether Bollore really does have a plan, and, what kind of golden handcuffs all the above-named individuals have been given. Major change is inevitable.

MARK CRANMER, the chief executive of Starcom MediaVest Group resigns without a job to go to? This doesn't happen to top managers who have made a success of their agencies, as Cranmer has unquestionably done at Motive and SMG successively. There wasn't even the obligatory "wanting to spend more time with my family". Could it be that the "driven" Cranmer is about to join the talent drain across the pond? He has been linked with the worldwide CEO job at Universal McCann in New York, vacant since fellow Brit Robin Kent got the boot in March. Cranmer is just the sort of no-nonsense do-er that the job requires. Plus he has proven his strategic credentials in spades. The McCann World Group CEO John Dooner hinted heavily to me in Cannes that he has found a winning solution to the Universal vacancy. But IPG also has a gap at the top of Initiative Media in Europe since Marie Jose Forissier was canned at the same time as Kent. It's possible, though less exciting a prospect, that Cranmer could be heading there - at least he could keep his huge brood in London. "Driven" is often an euphemism for arsehole. This is absolutely not the case with Cranmer. He will be back.

LAST WEEK Fallon, the Publicis-owned Minneapolis creative agency (not an oxymoron) announced the closure of its New York office. This came not long after founder Pat Fallon declined to re-pitch BMW in the US, bringing to a miserable conclusion the relationship that produced BMWFilms.com, one of the most influential campaigns of recent years. Some at Fallon still bear terrible emotional scars from the September 11th attacks. Their then office was high in the renowned Woolworth Building a couple of blocks away from the twin towers. Fallon staffers at the same height as terrified office workers standing on their window ledges, watched as they jumped in desperation to certain death below. How do you ever get over images like that? News of the closure came on the day of the London attacks. All 35 staff have been offered jobs in Minneapolis. So that's alright then.

Stefano Hatfield is senior editor, Metro International

Stefano.hatfield@metro.us

Hatfield's Best In Show: Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

There is only one possible choice for this past week: it has to be Bloomsbury's through-the-line campaign for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Who could possible not have known that Friday was the release date of the sixth book in the phenomenal series? Yes, you will have seen some ads on bus sides and poster billboards; yes, there were clever PR leaks ahead of publication, but the real secret to the campaign was word of mouth. Every child in the UK (the world?), knew of the launch, especially with the help of digital clocks in store windows and websites displaying countdowns. Sadly, the bombings meant the London W H Smith launch party was moved to Wimbledon from King's Cross (home of the magical Platform 9 3/4), but the launch campaign achieved rare success: a new product that literally everyone knew about and actually wanted.

Comments