Shock for JWT London as CEO Guy Hayward quits for Havas’ BETC

JWT in London has had more bosses than you can shake a stick at in recent years and now the latest, Guy Hayward, who joined from 180 Amsterdam which he co-founded in 1998, is leaving after just two years to join ambitious Havas network BETC.

Hayward’s departure is a particularly grievous blow as JWT London has shown some signs of regaining its former glories recently (although such glories were many moons ago in truth when it pre-dated Saatchi & Saatchi as the UK’s biggest agency), producing some lively work, most recently for Male Cancer Awareness.

JWT Europe CEO Toby Hoare, one of Hayward’s predecessors who survived, says: “It is disappointing that Guy has decided to go, but I respect his decision and wish him well. I will be moving swiftly for an ambitious solution to replace him.” This is quite sharp for Hoare, an old school advertising gent, who sounds right pissed off.

The common factor in all these departures is, of course, owner WPP and its demanding boss Sir Martin Sorrell. Sorrell’s management style can verge on the brutal if targets are missed and margins not achieved, errant executives being required to make regular visits to the headmaster’s study for suitably bracing discussions.

I’ve no idea if this is the case with JWT London and Hayward (and indeed Hoare) but the CEOs of WPP agencies tend to find life just exhausting after a while. In the US long-serving Y&R global CEO Hamish McLennan decided back in February that he needed a rest in his native Australia while Paul Taaffe, head of giant PR firm Hill & Knowlton upped sticks in January when WPP decided to merge the business with Jack Martin’s much smaller Public Strategies.

Earlier this week MEC North America boss Lee Doyle resigned after the media agency suffered a series of business losses and also new business disappointments.

WPP is a massive organisation of course so comings and goings are to be expected, although it does seem to have more of them than its rivals like Omnicom and Publicis Groupe. Another issue, for JWT London particularly, is the difficulty some of the big network agencies in the group have in winning local or even regional business, however many resources they pour into the creative department.

In terms of WPP’s overall performance this probably doesn’t matter too much. As long as it keeps big global clients like Ford, Unilever and GSK and picks up the odd new one (WPP-owned Ogilvy & Mather recently won a slice of SC Johnson’s $1bn global account) local business doesn’t make much difference to the bottom line. But such accounts do gee up the troops.

As for Hayward it’s unclear what his role at BETC will be (Campaign says it’s business development) but if and when he does join it will be another case of new Havas CEO David Jones cherry-picking star execs rather than going out and buying companies.

BETC, which is a big Havas-owned agency in Paris, is trying to create a BBH-style ‘micro’ network to add to Havas’ Euro RSCG and Arnold Worldwide offerings.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.