Women to Watch

Amanda Walsh

By Published on .

Fearless is the word to describe Amanda Walsh, European CEO of WPP Group's Red Cell network.

Both Andy Berlin, chairman of Red Cell, and Charlie Robertson, chief strategic officer, offer this description of Ms. Walsh.

And Ms. Walsh agrees she's fearless when it comes to dealing with so-called difficult creatives. "I say what I think, but I have huge respect for them, and they smell that," the executive contends.

You'd have to be brave to take on the task of building Red Cell into a true network. "It's a massive challenge," Ms. Walsh admits, "but I really believe it's achievable. We will become hot."

Beyond the fearless factor, WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell describes Ms. Walsh as "Good personality, motivated, good knowledge of the business, good judge of work, gets on well with clients." According to Mr. Robertson, "Underneath her charismatic, stylish, classic CEO presence she is surprisingly steely and good with numbers."

Ms. Walsh, 46, worked as a translator before entering advertising as a secretary. She rose to become managing director at independent agency WCRS before setting up her own shop, Walsh Trott Chick Smith.

WTCS gave Ms. Walsh the entrepreneurial experience that has helped her connect with the spirit of different Red Cell agencies around the world.

However, after seven years she found the constant need for consensus "annoying and tedious," and took a year off to spend time with her husband of 15 years, Brian Stewart, a photographer and art director, and her 22-year-old stepdaughter, Sophie.

"I've always worked because I enjoy it," she says. "My husband and I have taken it in turns to support each other. There was the joy of not knowing what I'd do next. It was exhilarating to have so many choices."

After dabbling with the idea of TV production, she took up Sir Martin's offer to run Red Cell Europe in March 2004. "Now that I'm doing it, it seems the obvious next step," says Ms. Walsh, who's based in London.

"I spend all my time on new business, because ultimately that's how we'll change the network," she says, adding that Red Cell is "very close to getting assignments from some serious international clients."

Mr. Berlin is glad that Ms. Walsh came on board. "She is fast and brilliant at making sense of complex situations without losing track of priorities," he says. "Among great people, too few are fun-Amanda is a lot of fun."

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