Nick Brien's Next Trick: Turning McCann Worldgroup Around

Nick Brien is smart. He's ambitious. He's pugnacious. He also, apparently, is the new CEO of Interpublic's venerable McCann Worldgroup, arguably the most important advertising services division within the storied Madison Avenue holding company. And the reason for that, most likely, is that Brien may be something else: a magician, having turned Interpublic's beleaguered media services brands into one of the most competitive forces on Madison Avenue, and according to some, a model for how agencies should handle media services in the future.

This month, MediaDailyNews sister publication Media magazine named Mediabrands, the unit Brien created to oversee and resuscitate Interpublic's media services operations, its "Agency Holding Company of the Year," largely because it was doing a better job than bigger peers, including WPP's GroupM and Publicis' VivaKi, at restructuring and repositioning its portfolio -- and its organization -- for the future. Not all of the ideas Brien infused into the new Mediabrands model are necessarily original, but he and his team have executed them more quickly, and with more of an organization-wide commitment than Interpublic's peers, in part, because they had less to lose. It worked. And Brien has won. Now we will find out if he can perform similar magic with a model -- the global brand agency network -- that some say isn't just broken, but is also an anachronism.



It won't be Brien's first role in managing a global portfolio of marketing services. Before he joined Interpublic in 2008 -- initially to turn around its beleaguered Universal McCann unit, and ultimately to manage its entire media services portfolio -- Brien was head of Publicis' Arc Worldwide unit. Prior to that, he was part of the team inside Publicis that created Starcom MediaVest Group, and helped move it to the pinnacle of the media services industry during its time.

It will be interesting to watch how Brien attempts to do the same for McCann Worldgroup, and chances are he will utilize tactics from his basic playbook: Borrowing the best ideas from others, and raiding the best people to implement them. During his tenure as head of Interpublic's Mediabrands, Brien has largely repopulated the senior- most positions within the organization, including the appointment of half a dozen former CMOs into key positions servicing the needs of, well, Interpublic's client CMOs.

According to an announcement by Interpublic early this morning, Brien will succeed long-time McCann chief John Dooner as CEO of the Worldgroup in April, and Dooner will remain chairman through 2010.

Mediabrands will be led by an "Office of the Chairman," reporting directly to Interpublic CEO Michael Roth. The office will be comprised of Richard Beaven, CEO of Initiative, Tara Comonte, Mediabrands' COO and CFO, Matt Freeman, the recently named CEO of Mediabrands Ventures and Matt Seiler, CEO of UM. A decision concerning a new CEO for Mediabrands is not contemplated until 2011, but Comonte was recently promoted from CFO to COO, if that means anything.

1 comment about "Nick Brien's Next Trick: Turning McCann Worldgroup Around".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, January 21, 2010 at 10:03 a.m.

    First up on Mr. Brien's "to do" list should be to kill Universal McCann's preposterous slogan: Curious minds, surprising results.

    I've dealt with the folks there and I found them to be far from curious, which came as absolutely no surprise.

    As far as being "a model for how agencies should handle media services in the future", this sounds like Steve Case describing the new paradigm he envisioned when he hoodwinked Time Warner.

    Good luck, Nick.

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