JWT’s own version of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce rumbles relentlessly on

Almost unbelievably l’affaire Martinez, the exit of former global boss Gustavo Martinez, rumbles on at JWT.

Martinez (below), who was accused of harassment, is now holed up in JWT Spain, some say as country manager. No-one is saying publicly exactly what he’s doing but he’s reported to have sent 47,000 emails over the past year and a bit.

Meanwhile his foe Erin Johnson, still officially global chief communications officer, is still there although she says that no-one’s speaking to her, showing her anything or allowing her to do anything. In the meantime director of global communications Christine O’Donnell (how does this differ from Johnson’s job?) has resigned. Johnson’s lawyers want to know why, JWT/WPP doesn’t want to tell them.

This is truly adland’s version of Charles Dickens’ famous Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, the pointless and never-ending legal case in Bleak House.

At the same time Tamara Ingram, now boss of the strange parallel universe that is JWT, has brought in Simon Pearce from Mcgarrybowen as CEO of North America, replacing Lynn Power who’s apparently off to do her own thing, and promoted Ben James to CCO. Stefano Zunino is JWT’s first “chief transformation officer,” which sounds a job and a half.

J. Walter Thompson, as it was then, was the first big building block in Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP empire, bought for $566m in 1987. At the time JWT was noted for doing things properly, a bit sleepy and complacent perhaps (it didn’t see Sorrell coming). JWT is said to have introduced Ivy League Brooks Brothers button down collar shirts to London (white, of course) and its “account representatives” were allegedly armed with a card showing the finer vintages, so they didn’t embarrass themselves when wining and dining clients.

Quite why this current business is rumbling and rambling on for so long only CEO Sorrell knows. When the agency world – including JWT – has some pretty big issues to face it is, indeed, unbelievable.

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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.
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