Gama says this is in line with “my original professional profile as an entrepreneur and creative generalist.” Indeed it is, Gama is a very good entrepreneur but as a successor to former BBH CCO Sir John Hegarty he was a non starter.
But such was the haste when Neogama announced it wanted to be bought out in 2012 that Publicis seemed to have panicked. BBH, then 49 per cent owned by Publicis, had the first option to buy Neogama, the source of nearly all its international network’s profits, but couldn’t afford it. So Publicis stepped in and coughed up about £100m for the outstanding shares in BBH, way more than it was worth as a perusal of Publicis’ accounts will show.
Alexandre Gama was then installed as Hegarty’s successor, which was clearly daft.
BBH has suffered all sorts of misfortunes since. It has lost its Diageo business, low billing but high paying, and won Tesco (the opposite applies). Audi seems to be run from Germany these days so that doesn’t produce the big campaigns and awards it once did. It’s also won Heinz but that’s a savagely run business that doesn’t pay that well (or promptly) and doesn’t spend a great deal on ads anyway. Over the last year the agency has shed about 20 per cent of its staff.
Replacing Gama is a big opportunity for BBH to regain some of its former creative lustre. Nick Gill is the highly respected ECD in London, Caroline Pay seems to be the coming person as deputy ECD.
Publicis Groupe, currently undergoing travails of its own as organic growth dries up and it takes a beating in the current round of big media reviews (it’s lost P&G and L’Oreal in the US) needs to decide if BBH is going to be a credible international network. It never quite happened under BBH management as New York was up and down like a yo-yo. Hence the importance of Neogama in Brazil, which did deliver the money.