The just concluded Advertising Week in New York City shined a spotlight on a looming void within the industry. Leaders, like Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Lévy, and Cindy Gallop, have always sparked headlines and attracted thousands to a venue at 9 am just to hear them express their points of view on any number of topics.
Right now, by comparison, there just doesn't seem to be as much excitement for a new crop of industry-grown pontificators.
However, it should be noted that the current group of most quotable executives aren't going anywhere just yet.
But Advertising Week attendees were eager to chime in with their thoughts about the potential crop of up-and-comers.
Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the more widely cited, and one who has most aggressively sought the spotlight. However, several attendees question his ability to separate his industry predictions from his own self-interest. "What's good for Gary is good only for Gary," quips one executive.
Another obstacle: he’s seen as a polarizing force. He has a large fan base among young talent, yet he seems to receive only tepid support from his peers and those above him. As one industry veteran explains, "He is smart, and leads a reasonably strong offering, but he is never going to be respected in the same way. But he is everywhere. Which makes him someone to watch."
Gallop remains a strong force for change in the industry and attendees appreciate that she is doing "more for women than anyone." Another executive likes how she doesn't care if not everyone likes her. In fact, "That may be her most appealing characteristic."
There doesn't seem to be an outspoken female leader to fill her shoes at this time. DDB's Wendy Clark, for instance, seemed poised to reign as an industry driving force, but a recent fast food chain loss seems to have torpedoed her chances for now. "I think we can agree, that after the devastating loss of McDonalds, Wendy Clark will not be on your future influencer list," quips one industry insider.
The agency CCO who landed McDonald’s, Colleen DeCourcey at W+K, remains one of the most respected people in the industry. "Ask anyone," states an attendee. "And, she and her agency win almost everything and deserve every accolade."
DeCourcey may soon have some interesting nuggets to share (not that she would) over her handling of the McD’s account. Numerous attendees say they are curiously following this win due to what they feel is a mismatch between agency and client.
One source predicts W+K won't stay with this business for long as McDonald's seeks to be cool like Burger King, yet doesn't have the gumption to potentially alienate customers. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for another big W+K client—Nike.
Publicis Groupe's Nick Law's departure to Apple left a creative voice void in the industry. And there don’t seem to be younger, fresher names generating consensus to potentially fill that void.
Veterans like David Droga, BBDO's David Lubars and Andrew Robertson as well as ad contrarian Bob Hoffman are all cited as worthy mavens. "They know business," an executive says. "And they know the value that creativity can bring to business."
Another attendee notes that Robertson could succeed Omnicom's CEO John Wren, effectively positioning him as a leading industry ambassador (Wren has actually shied away from such a role).
Indeed, CEO status commands attention for those who want it. Arthur Sadoun is increasingly revealing his witty and charming side in public forums. Similarly, many cite Michael Roth's likely successor Phillippe Krakowsky at IPG as "one to watch" thanks to his ability to part from the corporate-speak script and "talk human.”
Canvas Worldwide's Paul Woolmington also receives numerous nominations largely due to his likeability, experience, and wisdom.
Sir Martin's grin illustrates he has no plans to relinquish his title any time soon but he does have several names he suggests as "quotable smart leaders," including from his new team at S4 Capital, Wesley ter Haar, Victor Knaap and his former assistant and WPP colleague Scott Spirit who recently joined S4. Sorrell also namechecks a half dozen of his WPP colleagues as worthy headline-grabbing successors, specifically GroupM’s Christian Juhl, SJR’s Alex Jutkowitz, BCW’s Donna Imperato, Kantar’s Eric Salama, Grey’s Jim Heekin, AKQA’s Ajaz Ahmed and MediaCom’s Steve Allan.
Conspicuously not on Sorrell’s list is his WPP successor Mark Read. But that’s another story.