Four years ago McCann Erickson chairman and chief executive John Dooner appointed Rupert Howell and Brett Gosper to run the European network and McCann’s flagship New York office respectively. Fast-forward to 2007 and Howell is leaving to be replaced by Gosper.
The Interpublic Group-owned network might have got it wrong the first time when it announced that EMEA chairman Giuseppe Usuelli would replace Howell (MW last week) but the industry believes the casting is right second time around. Gosper, McCann’s US president, will take over Howell’s job as EMEA president with responsibility for the UK group as chairman and chief executive.
Observers think Howell would have been in a strong position to succeed Dooner if his time at McCann had been more successful. They believe that Gosper – who starts in July and will also manage global clients including L’Oréal, General Motors and Unilever – could now be in line for the top job if all goes to plan.
“EMEA is in great shape with good new business and I will try to build on that success,” says Gosper, adding that no radical changes are planned and that he is looking forward to coming back to a London advertising industry that has seen a “seismic shift” since 2003.
Gosper is most renowned for the London agency that bore his name – Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper. With his creative partner Mark Wnek, he stabilised the Havas-owned agency after a much-publicised merger and it became one of the most successful agencies in London with an outstanding new business record in the mid-1990s. Gosper left after nine years to become McCann Erickson Worldwide general manager. The move surprised many who thought he was in line for an “unspecified” global role at Havas. A source says Gosper had become disillusioned at Havas and IPG offered him a bigger stage on which to play.
He lasted only nine months and switched to Omnicom in 2004 to become president of the much smaller New York division of TBWA Worldwide. In the new role, he had a direct line to TBWA worldwide chief executive Jean-Marie Dru but a year later it emerged that Dru was being courted by Havas, leading to Gosper returning to IPG in an enlarged role including a seat on the World Group board.
It is his “cosmopolitan training” that former colleagues of the affable Australian admire. Former Euro RSCG London managing director Adam Leigh, who is now chief executive of The Communications Agency, says/ “He is neither British, nor European, or even American, but has worked across all continents, making him perfectly suited to a huge organisation like McCann. He understands how the corporate world works, but as an old fashioned account man knows how to provide that local flavour wherever he goes.”
Another former colleague, managing director Draft FCB Enda McCarthy adds: “He does charisma rather well, but he is much more strategic and creative than just being the ultimate account man.”
Gosper started at Ogilvy & Mather Australia in 1981 and was later mentored by David Ogilvy himself.
His pedigree can be traced to the Gospers being part of the “Australian aristocracy”, says one source. His father Kevan Gosper is a former chairman of Shell in Australia and went on to become an executive member of the International Olympic Committee.
Paul Shearer, Nitro global creative director, says: “Brett loves nothing better than a great bit of creative work. He is not one to let things fail and I hope he makes a few changes at McCann. This might just be his defining moment.”