Not so sweet in corporate suite:Double up at the top

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One head is actually better than two when it comes to managing agencies these days. Several of the industry's largest ad agencies, rather than bringing on additional-and often expensive-talent to fill empty high-level posts, are handing proven leaders the extra job titles.

Just this year, Steve Hayden was promoted to vice chairman of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide from president-worldwide brand services on IBM Corp. He continues, however, to head IBM's global advertising account at Ogilvy.

Omnicom Group's DDB New York had vacancies at the chairman and executive creative director positions, but filled them both by hiring Bob Kuperman from sibling Omnicom agency TBWA Worldwide, where he was president-CEO of the Americas.

Weeks later at TBWA, Carl Johnson, president of TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, added the title of chief operating officer of TBWA Worldwide, while Tom Carroll, president of TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, took on the additional role of president of the Americas.

Meanwhile, at WPP's J. Walter Thompson, Bob Jeffrey rose to the role of president of North America, but he took his previous title with him: president of New York. Similarly, Patrick Corry, JWT's executive VP-director-in-charge of the Unilever North America and Merrill Lynch Private Client accounts, is maintaining those duties while he adds the job of director of client and business development.

Norm Sherman, a partner at the New York recruiting firm Gundersen Partners, said the need for agencies to stay profitable in tough times is a reason some executives have doubled up. "This year, driving the top line is a very difficult task. So [agencies] look for efficiencies in the organization that will drive the bottom line. If they can find ways of cobbling together roles that were historically senior and expensive to increase profitability, they'll figure out a way to do it," Mr. Sherman said.

It seems to be part of a larger management trend noticed by Steve Gundersen, CEO of Gundersen Partners. "A lot of senior agency executives realize their most talented senior people were spending too much time not on client business. So there is a shift back to getting the best talent focused on client business," Mr. Gundersen said.

One benefit is the ability to cross-pollinate good ideas to other parts of an agency's business, according to both Ogilvy's Mr. Hayden and JWT's Mr. Corry. "As you move up and take on more, you are therefore going to let people around you take on more. It's how you keep an organization healthy and keep people energized," Mr. Corry added.

At the same time, agencies risk stretching their executives too thin. Mr. Hayden, for example, said there is no way he can read the 600 e-mails he receives on average each day. "[A downside] is the possibility of distraction, to suffer from information overload," he said. "If you don't focus on what you are doing, it will never be done."

job functions expand

An increase in job scope is not limited to top executives either.

"With all the layoffs, there's a general trend of people's responsibilities growing at virtually every level, regardless of if you are an executive or an account executive," said Chris O'Donnell, a recruiter at Atlanta-based The Talent Zoo. "You're an account executive, suddenly with responsibilities of an account supervisor, but you're not promoted in salary," he said, adding: "Agencies are unintentionally creating a sweatshop environment."

Mr. Hayden put a more positive light on the situation. "Effective generalists are at a premium," he said. "We try to find people who are multilingual, capable of working across disciplines. Certainly in tight economic times you really can't afford legions and legions of people doing one thing all day," he said. But, he said, an agency cannot become so much of a generalist that it is a specialist in nothing.

The multiple job juggling act-due in part to a cut in client spending-has to be handled deftly, some executives acknowledged, or they risk losing even more income from their clients.

"If you expect people to do too much, clients are going to say, `Where's the value that this person is giving?' and `We're worse off than not having the person put on in the first place,"' Mr. Sherman said. "It may be driven by efficiencies, but first [agency executives] need to ask whether they can add value for clients. If the answer is they can't do it, then don't stretch the people." M


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