Advertising Age: What was your reaction to the April 8 Ad Age story?
Mr. Rydholm: We had planned on announcing this-I thought we had agreed, at least-around the time of the anniversary. It's a nice delineating mark, and we would all be together. That would give us time to put out the specifics to people before we announced it. It's not really correct, for example, that two of the four chief client officer slots mentioned will be filled from the outside. One will be Curt Olson, an executive creative director. And whether we get the other one filled or not, short term, I don't know.
AA: Let's talk about Tatham's relationship with its sister agencies in the U.S.
There are three general agencies in the Euro RSCG U.S. network-Tatham [in Chicago], Messner Vetere [in New York] and Dahlin Smith White [in Salt Lake City]. We all provide basically the same services to our clients. There also are companies in the U.S. network in allied businesses like sales promotion, PR, direct response. We work with them a lot on projects because they have specialities we don't.
AA: Do you regard Tatham as a global agency?
Mr. Rydholm: No, I regard Euro RSCG as a global agency network and Tatham as part of a global network. I hope we're thought of by global clients as an agency they can work with on a multinational basis. I doubt a client with global brands will want a lot of national or local agencies. Everything these companies do is headed toward globalization. Saturation is one reason. Incremental growth in the U.S. comes at a higher price, while you can get explosive growth in some areas of the world.
AA: How much does Euro RSCG wish to tighten its U.S. network?
Mr. Rydholm: When I was at JWT, there was a common style, philosophy and attitude. It was partly because of how JWT grew, which was to follow General Motors Corp. in the 1920s to Europe. Each office ended up with certain similarities, because the clients were the same.
Euro's a little different. It grew from mergers and acquisitions mainly. Tatham operates autonomously, but not as much as eight years ago. We have to send them money, and any time you send anybody money, believe me, they wish to know how you're doing.
But Tatham with our Procter & Gamble business, Messner with MCI [Communications], Dahlin with Intel and Euro RSCG with Philips provide the really global clients. There is focus on these agencies because we can be the font of growth for the system now, not just for the individual agencies.
That's what a lot of this recent reorganization is about. It's an attempt to make the system more of a functioning entity, and also less French-dominated or French-focused. Selling a French global agency is not an easy thing to do to multinational companies.
The hiring of [Steve] Dworin was part of making Euro RSCG no longer both holding company and agency network, but a network only.
AA: To what extent is Mr. Dworin in a position to influence Tatham, now and in the future?
Mr. Rydholm: Steve has a lot of input because he basically has aegis over this office. That's one of his responsibilities, along with Procter globally. We've pushed for a long time to have somebody globally in charge of Procter.
We were not the acquiring agency of the network. When we merged, they became the controlling party. The French didn't feel comfortable becoming involved in U.S. multinationals. That's why they needed a global person.
AA: Enter Steve Dworin?
Mr. Rydholm: Right, who is basically the global person, in this case with special responsibilities for Procter. As the global person for a major account, he's got a heavy role to play. And he looks over this agency as well, which is fine. But we are still an independent agency.
AA: How does all this relate to Tatham's recent restructuring and your future in it?
Mr. Rydholm: I'm staying in my current role as chairman-CEO, although I will no longer have the title of chief creative officer.
As for the restructuring, Messner had operated on a flatter structure than we did, though it's a partnership not tremendously dissimilar from ours. But it's not as vertical-no chairman, president, exec VP, on down the line. It runs with four or five people, essentially equal but with different functional roles.
Basically, the new set-up means we'll have more senior people across the top working in four client groups on a co-equal basis as chief client officers. We wanted to make this more formal; to codify it, so we could dramatize what we already do.
And it's also a way to attract some other people and give them senior level openings in the place.
AA: So if Tatham moves to what you call a "flatter" structure, where would this leave you?
Mr. Rydholm: Well, I didn't say it was totally flat. (smiles)
AA: You'll be 59 next month. When does one know when it's time, short of chest pains?
Mr. Rydholm: When it starts to dawn on you that everybody you meet, including clients, is quite a bit younger. And when you don't relate. That hasn't happened to me yet.
AA: Do you feel any discomfort reporting to Mr. Dworin, a man almost 15 years younger than you are?
Mr. Rydholm: No, not at all. The only real question there was that I had to live with another layer of management between me and Paris. Steve is, in effect, another Euro layer, a more hands-on layer, and a necessary one. But age is not the issue.
AA: You've made your reputation on the creative side. Have you formulated a creative philosophy or series of principles?
Mr. Rydholm: To a great extent creative philosophies are just rhetoric. We all work from the same basic rulebook. You've got to have an idea of how to position a product. You've heard it a million times. It doesn't makes any difference how glib or facile it is. I guess the only philosophy I would have about an ad is that it should cause me to think a little differently about a brand, see it in a different way.
Executionally, it's an issue of personal taste. Yet, if you go to a show and have 10 CDs judging, you'd be surprised how often a consensus evolves around the really good and original ones. It's like what some chief justice once said about pornography. I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it.
AA: Who did you want to be as good as?
Mr. Rydholm: When I was a kid, Bill Bernbach. It was astonishing stuff.
AA: Who helped your career the most?
Mr. Rydholm: Dick Simpson, the guy who finally gave me a job. He ran the merchandising department of the Chicago Y&R office. The guy looked at me and thought I might do well.
AA: And who have you, in turn, mentored?
Mr. Rydholm: Gordon Bowen (now VP-group creative director at Young & Rubicam); I hired him out of the Mormon Church. Actually, the most astonishing group I ever worked with was at JWT in the late '60s/early '70s. In one little group we had Burt Manning, Tom Hall, Charlotte Beers, Bob Jones, Wally O'Brien, Wayne Fickinger, Bill Ross. Joe Sedelmaier was there then.
AA: If you had to choose an ad, commercial or campaign to illustrate your Who's Who citation, what might it be?
Mr. Rydholm: There was a campaign that Tom Hall and I did at JWT. It only ran for a year, but we won the Burger King business. It was called "America's Burger King." The idea was to out-McDonald McDonald's and totally pre-empt the idea that Burger King was where America goes for burgers. There were two great things about it.
First, it was exactly the right campaign for getting the business. It said to the client, "This is what we are, and nobody knows it." Every client wants to believe someone has at last discovered that they're as great as they always said they were.
Second, it said Burger King was not just the Whopper. It was every kind of burger there is. It said we had it all. Was it as ingenious a piece of advertising as I've ever done? No, but for that situation it was perfect.
AA: What do you look for in the portfolio of a creative person?
Mr. Rydholm: Well, it isn't just the craft. You can teach the craft. It's somebody who looks at things in an unexpected way. You asked if I had a philosophy. It's all part of the same issue.When kids look at something for the first time, they see it with a sense of awe. Like the way a lot of people on drugs in the '60s saw things: "Wow, man, a bottle"-as if they were getting revealed truth. I'm not saying take drugs. Just make me see a brand differently.
AA: If someone's been in the business five or six years, and they have brilliant stuff, but none of it has been produced, how do you weigh that?
Mr. Rydholm: Interesting. Depends on what they've been working on and where. I had one lady once come to me after four years at Needham with a reel of nine Ronald McDonald breakfast commercials. That's all. I asked if she had anything else, and she mentioned some stuff that never ran. I said, "Please show me that. How am I suppose to judge you?"
Mr. Rydholm: Charlotte was a good leader...in the sense that she could get people to follow her into battle. She could make people believe they could do things they didn't think they could. In terms of actual day-to-day managing, in some ways Charlotte was a disaster. She loved to foment crises that only she could solve. She was never happy unless there was a tremendous crisis going on. She believed that people weren't effective unless they were frantic and frightened.
AA: When you were at JWT in the '70s, what was your impression of TLK? What was its reputation?
Mr. Rydholm: Pretty much what it is now. Smart, very strategic, very package goods, but not your basic stunning, boutique-style creative. It never has had that reputation. We were probably better than people thought we were.
AA: To what extent does the client set the creative standard for an agency?
Mr. Rydholm: So much of our creative output historically has been in package goods. The output, thinking and performance of the agency has, therefore, attracted more clients who want that kind of work. But if you want to diversify, you need different kinds of accounts as well. That's one reason we tried so hard to get Illinois Bell. It's why you want an account like Huffy bikes. You want some opportunities to do, not better creative, but different creative.
AA: A Wall Street Journal writer once observed that the typical agency has essentially no will of its own, but is an extension of the will and culture of its largest client. Yes?
Mr. Rydholm: Not the first part. Agencies do have a will of their own. But the second part, sure. An agency to a great extent tends to mirror its clients. I think a good agency knows both the strengths andlimitations therein and tries to address them.