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McCann’s Chris Macdonald dons a sharper suit

It’s up, up and away for London’s supreme account man, Chris Macdonald, but not quite to the top of the greasy pole as I claimed earlier. The youthful chief executive of McCann’s London advertising agency has certainly enlarged his power base, but by discipline rather than geographical territory.

Macdonald  has been appointed to the new role of chairman of the London-based McCann Worldgroup, where he will have responsibility not only for McCann itself but the digital media unit MRM, experiential unit Momentum and McCann Healthcare as well.

Macdonald has got where he is largely on the  strength of his own merits. But, as ever in the politics of advertising, the wheel of fortune has played its role too. His precocious promotion is also the by-product of a power struggle between McCann group supremo Nick Brien and European chief executive and president Brett Gosper, where Gosper has successively been forced to yield ground.

It may not have escaped notice that McCann – normally the motor of Interpublic growth – has had problems in the engine room, thanks in large part to the lacklustre captaincy of John Dooner. When Dooner (not before time) took his loot and retired, Gosper went for the top job, but was beaten to the draw by former media man Brien.

Brien may not be gifted with tact or creativity, but he’s right on top of one of the basic principles of leadership – stick to what you are good at (in his case, ruthless decision-making and a gift for tumbling numbers) and appoint people who supply your talent deficit. Brien picked Mother’s Swedish creative prodigy Linus Karlsson to lead the McCann creative renaissance. (How many times have we heard that one, readers? But maybe someone, sometime  will succeed in replicating the McCann London glory days of the late Seventies.) As an earnest of Brien’s intention he also made Karlsson chairman of London – a position hitherto part of Gosper’s titles portfolio.

Now the other shoe has dropped. Gosper is out in the cold. Macdonald is wearing an even sharper suit (David Jones watch out) and Brien has sensibly handed the more presidential aspects of Gosper’s role to Gustavo Martinez, formerly director of global brand management and global new business director at Ogilvy & Mather. Importantly, it appears Macdonald reports directly to Brien, rather than via Martinez.

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