McCann Erickson London may be on the up, but some client areas are still lacking

BarclaysIt has been a good week for Brett Gosper, McCann Erickson’s European chief. The London office has landed a pan-European brief for Barclays (MW last week) while the Birmingham agency has snared the £24m advertising and media for MFI. London has also picked up the £10m Intercontinental advertising account.

The wins come a year after the appointment of Gosper as UK chairman and EMEA president, although it was some months later that he joined from McCann Erickson USA, where he was chairman. It also comes almost six months after London managing director Chris Macdonald was promoted to chief executive.

Gosper is known to be ambitious and, according to those who know him, is already being lined up for the top job at InterpublicGroup (IPG) – that of chairman and chief executive Michael Roth. He is understood tobe keen to show what a powerhouse McCann Erickson’s European operations can be, particularly in relation to its IPG siblings. One source suggests his ambition is to fold the troubled Lowe network into McCann Erickson.

As EMEA chief, he oversees an operation spanning over 100 cities in over 85 countries. The UK group, of which he is chairman, is one of McCann’s core global markets.

Some have suggested that Birmingham-based McCann Erickson Communications House scored something of a coup wresting the MFI advertising account from M&C Saatchi, after issues over credit insurance apparently led ZenithOptimedia to drop the media account. Others, though, that it shows a zealousness on the part of a regional agency to take “risky” business London would not touch. A network executive insists not. “The Birmingham agency is performing well. The Manchester agency is performing well,” he insists.

London calling

But it is London that appears to be progressing best. Along with the Barclays business, it has already this year picked up briefs including Hovis and Quorn for Premier Foods – it was the only incumbent agency to remain on the consolidated business Sony Ericsson and Saudi-based petrochemicals company Sabic.

It also made the shortlists of Lotto and Homebase, with a decision from the retailer imminent, suggesting a reinvigorated new business performance and creative output.

Says one advertising executive: “It feels like a ‘London’ agency, not the corporate office of a network, which it possibly was a few years ago.”

Duplicate model?

AAR director of advertising Martin Jones points to the top team, suggesting there is an air of “Rainey Kelly” about it – which is not surprising since Macdonald joined from managing partner at RKCR/Y&R in 2005 and freely admits he is replicating that model.

In joint executive creative directors Brian Fraser and Simon Learman, and chief strategy officer Nikki Crumpton (promoted from head of planning earlier this month), Macdonald believes he has a senior team of “equals”.

He says: “This is not an ‘old’ model, where I’m the chief executive and run an agency – those days are gone. My model is the Rainey Kelly model where there are four people who are equal partners.”

Macdonald adds: “There is momentum and we are starting to get on to pitch lists that nobody expected us to get on – like Lotto.”

Perhaps so, but one rival executive suggests that a shop as big as McCann Erickson London should not be lacking in the areas it is. He also warns against verve and confidence transmuting into arrogance. “Despite landing the Barclays project, it does not have a big, high street bank on board. Despite the Co-op, it does not have a big-name retailer, and despite McCann’s strong global ties with General Motors, it does not have a meaty car account,” he says.

Macdonald agrees that the agency’s spread of clients is patchy in parts: “We’re not there yet. But we are moving in the right direction.”

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