CEO John Dooner has said he'll exit the world's second-largest marketing-agency network (just behind Dentsu, according to Ad Age's DataCenter) in about five years, but insiders have said it'll be more like two or three. Whenever it is, he will have to anoint his successor well before he departs if the agency is to avoid a bloody bout of infighting.
So when Worldgroup last week reshuffled top management, everyone scrutinized the moves for clues to the identity of the next boss. McCann itself insisted the reshuffle was about putting greater emphasis on client relations; insiders and rivals interpreted it as the network retooling to stress marketing-services offerings rather than its well-known ad capabilities. (Among other moves this week, longtime worldwide creative chief Jonathan Cranin resigned, and talk was of "taking another approach" to that role in replacing him.)
Grooming a successor
The most obvious candidate to succeed Mr. Dooner, Brett Gosper, president of McCann Erickson in the U.S., was named president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Most insiders interpreted the new post as a crack at more overseas experience as he's groomed for the top job. Still, his departure also provides a new role for rising star Michael McLaren, director-global accounts, who will become president-U.S.
Messrs. Gosper and McLaren will split the handling of McCann's global clients, with Mr. Gosper focusing on EMEA-based marketers such as Unilever, Nestle and L'Oreal and Mr. McLaren working with U.S.-based Intel and Johnson & Johnson.
"I am sending a message that performance on clients is going to be the determining factor for further ascension in the company," Mr. Dooner said. "It is a signal to all our population that that's what's important." Of course, he's also priming potential successors. "We are building the backgrounds of the people that could possibly take my place," he added.