Stefano Hatfield On Advertising

A female Brit from over there who could do very well over here
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The Independent Online

At last, an imaginative choice as head of a top London agency. New chief executive Alison Burns, below, joining JWT London from New York is a rare example of a choice from left field that makes perfect sense.

Although she spent her last two years as a consultant in New York, her varied CV prior to this on both sides of the Atlantic, and on both sides of the agency-client divide, plus the obvious fact that she is a rare female chief executive in London, all add up to a genuinely new broom in a place that was in dire need of one.

Before her five years as president of Fallon New York, Burns had been both head of marketing for Pizza Hut in the US and put in time at Young & Rubicam in London, where she first worked with her new boss, the current JWT London chairman Toby Hoare. She is smart, driven and steely - and capable both of being fun and a little hard in equal measure.

Among all the praise, it has to be said that her time at Fallon was not exactly an unqualified success - but see last week's column on Paul Silburn's firing by Fallon for reasons why Brits are unlikely to succeed long-term at a Minneapolis-based agency.

Sadly, Fallon never truly recovered from the tragic events of September 11 in New York, when agency staffers at the offices high up in lower Manhattan's landmark Woolworth Building had an eye-level, eye-witness view of terrified World Trade Centre workers jumping to their deaths. Understandably, traumatised workers found it very hard to recover from that day, despite their physical relocation to the parent Publicis building in midtown.

Prior to these events, Burns herself seemed - to those who knew her - to be one of the Brits who was there to stay. She also seemed capable of greater things.

Now she has that bigger canvas on which to paint, and it is safe to say that she has been very keen to work on larger accounts of the sort JWT has in spades.

Much will rest on her relationship with the agency's executive creative director Nick Bell. Apparently, the two get on famously, which is a start. It will be good if Burns can put a smile back on Bell's face.

If she succeeds, that smile will spread to the faces of Hoare and Bob Jeffrey, the JWT worldwide chief executive and a big fan - and, of course, to Sir Martin Sorrell, who is to be congratulated for this particular piece of enlightened hiring.

It's worth mentioning too that the hiring was the work of the former BMP headhunting duo Alison Parker and Mark Rapley's The Garden Partnership. For once, one is not left wondering why the agency even needed a headhunter to make the same old tired choices.

Burns is getting a kind press this week from those who do not know her at all. From one who does, I am sure she will live up to the billing. And how refreshing to have another A-list female chief executive in chauvinistic London adland.

BY CONTRAST, Paul Bainsfair, the European president of TBWA, waited the best part of a year to replace Andrew McGuinness as chief executive of TBWA London, following the latter's defection to start up BMB with the London adland icon Trevor Beattie.

That he then replaced him with Matt Shepherd-Smith, the managing director, and also made Neil Dawson, the executive planning director, his chairman, only fuels the suspicion that the agency had looked outside long and hard without success - perhaps at the former RKCR/Y&R boss MT Rainey, for example.

Whatever the truth, it's time the agency stopped treading water and kicked up a gear. Nigel Bogle's "an agency is only ever three phone calls away from disaster" looms large over its current performance. Bainsfair is a canny business operator, though, and he won't let things drift.

There is one disturbing rumour about Bainsfair, though: that he is contemplating switching allegiance as far as his football team is concerned! And there we were thinking that you weren't just another typical adman, Paul - even if, in the case of a QPR fan like you, it is entirely understandable. What sort of example would that be to set young people just coming into the industry?

LAST YEAR'S Pepsi Max spot in which a trio of wacky "Punk'd" rejects lie down to be steam-rollered, fortified by their carbonated beverages, was incomprehensibly bad, so to describe the latest spot as worse is really something. An office-worker is stuck by his hands and feet to the outside of a skyscraper. His fellow drones feed him Pepsi Max and send him flip-flopping down the side of the building. Cue the usual astonishment of those inside the 23rd-floor boardroom.

Er, and that's it. Given the quality of the client and agency, and the young target audience, this tired and lazy campaign is even more mystifying. It's not "so bad it's good", it's just plain lame.

CONGRATS TO Stephen Foster of the Editorial Partnership, who wins the "find a new name for Lowe Lace Morris" competition from last week, topping my "Jammy Dodgers" with "The Incredibles". His prize? Good Lord, he's got his name in The Independent's media section - isn't that prize enough?

ALL THIS tittle-tattle and general nonsense may keep the London ad community and my loyal, expat, multimillionaire admen readers in Greenwich, Connecticut enthralled, but the true action this weekend was taking place in the motor city, Detroit, home of this year's Super Bowl.

Sadly, The Independent's deadlines mean I have to write this in advance of the spectacle that is the world's largest annual television event. However, I do know that the ABC network and its advertisers will be disappointed that the competing teams will be from small TV franchise markets like Pittsburgh and Seattle.

Of course, the event is as much about the annual advertising festival surrounding the TV coverage as it is about the game itself. This year is no exception, with Coca-Cola apparently in trouble with America's three million truckers (three million!) over the allegedly stereotypical portrayal of a trucker and his vehicle in Coke's Super Bowl offering.

There's also GoDaddy.com, which has had to revise its spot 10 times - allegedly - in advance this year after last year's relatively controversial spot. Expect at least one advertiser to make a splash from nowhere in addition to the regulars such as Anheuser-Busch, Coke, Pepsi, MasterCard, Pizza Hut and FedEx.

Sadly, we are still in a climate of post-Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" fear, and conservatism is the norm in a country that has only just agreed to allow flirting in its beer advertising.

Next week: a more detailed look at the ads, many of which we will get to see here sooner or later. However, you can't help feeling that the Super Bowl is the last hurrah for the old media way of advertising to the great American public. That said, the British ad industry would love such an annual event. Sadly, the FA Cup Final is just not in the same league. Literally and metaphorically.

e-mail stefanohat1@aol.com if you have a joke that would bring a smile to Nick Bell's face

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