Nick’s Thing Now.

Long awaited changes at the top of McCann. Congrats are due to Nick Brien for being at the front of the jostling queue to take over from the immutable John Dooner, who has finally announced his retirement after 40 years in the business. 


Will Nick Brien ring the changes at McCann? Undoubtedly. As Dooner is famously and irreverently quoted, ‘we don’t stab you in the back, we stab you in the front.‘ As anyone who’s been in charge of a McCann agency around the world will tell you, that’s not entirely true. There’s reportedly more metaphorical stabbing going on than in the massacre sequences from La Reine Margot, as in every large network. So there’s some pretty good armour required to get to the top and managing the disparate empires across the group will represent a real challenge. The truth is probably more simple. As with all the networks, big client losses and client cutbacks have decimated the global position. And at impending results time, sweeteners are needed to turn the lemons into lemonade. New management is a tried and tested additive, and it’s actually a positive thing to see someone from within promoted.


It’s a sound choice. Clients right now are looking for flexibility and ideas, rather than just advertising distribution, and integrating Client business requirements across P&Ls is often more expensive than necessary, something that hasn’t escaped the notice of procurement people. In Nick’s case, the accusation of ‘distance’ from Clients, often levelled at ‘global’ people wouldn’t be true. He’s made some moves to bring new senior people, and he’s made good efforts to provide ROI intelligence around media. I liked the idea of appointing Matt Freeman (formerly CEO of Adweek’s agency of the year Tribal DDB). It’s a good message – more senior people really need to understand digital consumption and communication.


It also takes time to change these agency business models pertinent to shifts in consumer behaviour. Consumers are less influenced by advertising in the buying process, preferring instead to rely on the wisdom of their own crowds, friends and connections. This explains the ‘movements’ rather than ‘ad campaigns’ so favoured in speeches by social media gurus. ‘Brand conversation’ has entered the litany, as Forrester’s technographics ladder update this week refers, and the buying points are far more complex. Online retail is continuing to grow, and increasing access to mobile web is giving more people opportunity to see impartial reviews at the point of purchase. Joining all this up is no mean feat for the marketing department, let alone for the agencies. Success in this digital world (er, the normal world) requires an ability to walk the new hard yards of creativity, media and interactivity. It’ll be interesting to see whether globalised advertising supply can deliver convincingly here, without more detailed change in purpose, structure, capability and attitude.