Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lace Weighs In



Garry Lace, the former £800,000 a year CEO of TBWA, Lowe and Grey (which in the words of one observer, "he ran like it was the 1980s") has kept a lower profile in the last couple of years.

He's been running a company called Admedia and not saying much in public... until yesterday.

Commenting on the story of the departure of Mark Cadman as chief executive of Euro RSCG, he wrote this:

Is it me or have some sections of the advertising world lost their collective minds? As I now understand it, hot on the heels of Lowe telling the world that they don't need a UK CEO, Euro RSCG now do the same. Maybe I missed the chapter on alternative methods of management but I've always worked on the assumption that companies need a leader. That person for whom people will work harder and care more because they are able to construct a vision for the business based on experience and instinct and articulate it in a powerful and motivating way. That person who proves to be a magnet for talent and clients alike and for whom nothing is impossible. Someone in the agency world today should stand up and expose the trend towards leaderless agencies as the nonsense that it is.

It's good to see a big character like Garry back in the public arena, and I have to say, I agree with him.

The idea that an ad agency, or indeed any group of people, can thrive without a leader is patent nonsense.

I've always been fascinated by leadership and charisma. I met Garry Lace very briefly in a bar once; he certainly had it. I've also met or worked under Paul Hammersley, Moray MacLennan, Nick Hurrell... Johnny Hornby. They had it. As does more than one individual here at BBH.

But what is 'it'?

The best definition I've heard of leadership is 'confidence, decisiveness and energy.'

Can you beat that? Is leadership still important? Who do you think has it?

(And remember, we're just talking about account handlers here - people who don't have a brilliant ad or strategy to impress you with, but must do it with nothing but their personality).

27 comments:

gonz said...

that definition doesn't nail it the way garry did. motivation is key. if you're a leader who doesn't inspire people then you may as well go home. but you've probably got a very nice home, so it's no bad thing.

Anonymous said...

With 12 years in the business and counting at some of the UK's top agencies, I'm sorry to say that I've never met anyone with 'it', unless 'it' is an ability to tap dance around the truth, stab the right person in the back at the right time and visit lap dancing clubs as if it's a decent way of spending your day at work.

Tom Morton said...

The best way to understand leadership is to think about followership. A leader is someone you'd happily follow in to battle because you think he or she is going in the right direction and you think you'll be alright under their charge. That separates out leadership from bossing people or being fun to be around. Nigel Bogle once described leadership as the service of others, if he is the person at BBH with the magical gift of 'it'.

Anonymous said...

I've met Garry Lace, and a couple of other people that you mention. They're undeniably good at what they do, but I find that personally, my opinion of them violates your no ad-hominem attacks policy doodad.

Anyroad, campaign's stuff of the year tomorrow. Who's your interweb pounds on, adfolk?

Anonymous said...

Eric Schmidt. Google CEO. Met him once. didn't know who he was. but was mightily impressed with his intellect and sparkle and overall it-ness.

Anonymous said...

[edit] In my experience agency CEOs are regularly deluded self-publicists who try and Creative Direct at the first opportunity they are given.

Yaser Martini said...

I like this definition of how a leader should be, by Steve Chandler:
Think like a hero (who can I help today?); work like an artist (what else can we try?); refuse to be ordinary (pursue excellence, then kill it); celebrate (but take no credit).

Anonymous said...

For an account man to have 'it' would mean an account man who sells work. Doesn't come back from meetings with a list of dumb client comments, or are so detached from an idea that they say things like "excuse me Tom Carty, do we really need the horses in this Guinness ad?".

I've never met one who has 'it'.

I have, however, met ones full of 'shit'

Charles Frith said...

Do leaders elect themselves or just get on with it?

Anonymous said...

Nick Mustoe.

Best suit I ever worked with when he was at Lowe's.

Before he got into advertising he sold double glazing door to door. Boy could that fucker sell.

All the creatives loved him 'cus when he said he'd go and sell it, it got sold.

No bullshit and a decent bloke too.

Chandni said...

I don't understand why account handlers can do 'it'/have 'it' only through their personality. I think you need a good deal of creative juice to sell something to someone..who cares otherwise?!

Chandni said...

as far as leadership goes---a leader is good only if they can create only other good leaders..n ya, all leaders..please lead by example!

Ciaran said...

You know, I had occasion once before to comment on the poverty of the comments on this blog provided by Anoymous. The comments on this post add nothing other than reminding me of this:

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves, that we are underlings."
WS

Anonymous said...

Frank Lowe.

The definition of 'it'

PH said...

Saw that your ad made it into the hallowed halls of the currant bun Simon. Congrats, that's when you know you've truly impacted on the nation's consciousness!

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2026042.ece

Anonymous said...

[edit]The it-man/woman is the one that makes sure an agency creates/produces/gets things done. And takes resposibility when it doesnt happen.

I'll let you know when I meet one...

Anonymous said...

One of the Naked guys in Sydney is making an interesting argument against the bernados ads.

Would love to see you chime in.

Anonymous said...

Chris MacDonald at McCann has that energy, decisiveness and confidence that makes people A) want to work for him and B) want to be around him.

Having someone like that steering the ship makes for a much better agency.

George said...

I was just looking through this week's Campaign Magazine. I couldn't help noticing that virtually nobody smiles for their photographs. Why is this? Is it vanity? Do people take themselves too seriously? Are they old photos that Campaign dug up from their archive?

Whatever the reason - if any of you find that you are going to feature in the magazine, then send them a picture where you are smiling. People will still respect you. You will still be taken seriously. If you smile for your photograph, you will look like you enjoy your job, and that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

It is the complete belief that you and only you are right, even in the face of considerable proof that you are not.
It is talking loudly, at length and without pause.
It is talking over people to "win" arguments.
It is being rude.
It is the ability to repeat the same point of view over and over and over and over and over again relentlesly until the other person gives up.
It is saying you are "pssionate" about advertising. (Doesn't matter if you are or not, advertising people are so shallow they take everything at face value).
It is never being irrverant about advertising even though, given it's completely subjective output, it is the least reverable occupation on the planet bar none.

Anonymous said...

Please, bring back the abuse! Scamp - the reason this blog was so popular is because it was unfettered. now you've emasculated yourself. if any business needed an outlet for real open debate and criticism it's this one and you've given up. disappointing. You probably won't put this up, but maybe you'll think about it.

Scamp said...

I contend we can still have an unfettered and open debate, without personal attacks on individuals. Can't we?

Anonymous said...

If 'it' is the ability to be a complete self-absorbed lady's part with a distinct lack of vision, then yes I've met plenty of accounts people like that, in less than a year.

And only one or two with any quality to their character.

Anonymous said...

personally I don't want a leader, and I've never met a good one or at least one who's leadership skills worked on me. I genuinely believe that most of the really successful top people I've met were psychopaths (CEOs and often ECDs). Creatives work for themselves, not for the organisations who's building they happen to be sitting in. They will show you no loyalty and nor should you them.

Anonymous said...

Scamp @ 3.43 - I'd agree with you, except that you've (and I'm being polite) bigged up Lace as a natural 'leader'.So where's the justification for censoring comments that give a maybe less flattering side to Lace's character? I guess this is the 'attack' you're referring to?To be honest I think seeing Garry Lace 'back' is like seeing [censored].The one-sided celebrating of [censored] is an epidemic in this industry. And this site WAS one of the few places where, quite often, the truth could actually reside. Print this in it's entirety. Go on. [Sorry, mate. Couldn't. Rules are rules. But I take your point.]

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lace's point that an agency needs a strong leader, even in the context of a leadership team that works closely together. You need someone who inspires, provides focus and, at critical times, makes the tough calls. Leadership is often about taking the difficult decisions: How to re-structure in the context of account losses? What idea is the agency going to pitch with? What actions to take in the context of a problematic relationship? How to tell the ECD that the work isn't good enough? etc. Most people think they can do this, but few can. The industry needs a few more courageous leaders to lift it out of the current malaise. The business is crying out for more would be Frank Lowes, a man with a sense of purpose and one never afraid to make the tough call.

Anonymous said...

This 'bigman' may be known as something charismatic. He'd might come up smelling of roses if he fell in the proverbial but the truth will always eventually out. Then the advertising world may realise what they bought into... it's/he's b..&@it! Charismatic leader perhaps but at the cost of respect....and shame the purported capability wasn't used to achieve some positive change in this country eh? Let's not 'big up' this job/behaviour as a great accomplishment in the economy these likes have co-created ? £800,000.00 for making decisions about selling things to people who don't need them and can't afford them anyway? Hello!?