PROFILE: Anthony Wreford, Omnicom - Waking from a decade’s dream - Anthony Wreford will strengthen Omnicom’s PR network by organic growth

For a long time, it looked as though nothing would convince Anthony Wreford to rejoin the rat race. The 47-year-old, who has just been named European president and chief executive of Omnicom’s diversified agency services division (DAS), was having far too good a time acting as a consultant, investor and director of people and communications businesses and indulging in his passions for cricket and golf.

For a long time, it looked as though nothing would convince Anthony

Wreford to rejoin the rat race. The 47-year-old, who has just been named

European president and chief executive of Omnicom’s diversified agency

services division (DAS), was having far too good a time acting as a

consultant, investor and director of people and communications

businesses and indulging in his passions for cricket and golf.



Having set up corporate communications specialist McAvoy Wreford in

1981, whose high-profile clients included ICI and Kleinwort Benson, and

sold it three years later to Valin Pollen, Wreford looked at his life

and decided there was not nearly enough fun in it. As soon as his

earn-out clause was up (in 1987), Wreford packed his credit cards and

set off on a tour of the world.



’I guess I did with an American Express card what most people do with a

backpack, but 15 years on,’ he says. Wreford had a ’strange dream’ that

’I would bump into someone who had some great idea in a bar, an airport

lounge or on a beach and we would click and that would be it: the rest

of my career sorted out’.



’In fact, that was just dreaming,’ he observes wryly. He didn’t want to

go back to doing what he had before: ’I wasn’t burnt out, but I was

badly singed - it had become a bit of a sweat’ he says, adding that he

had nonetheless enjoyed working with clients.



In 1988, advertising group BMP offered him PR consultancy work. Within a

few months, Wreford found himself battling against a hostile takeover

bid from BDDP. Omnicom emerged as BMP’s white knight and there began his

ten-year relationship with Omnicom as a consultant. Wreford played a

significant part in planning Omnicom’s acquisition strategy in Europe.

He advised on deals to acquire financial PR specialist Valin Pollen,

lobbying agency Market Access and consumer and corporate PR outfit

Scope. Over the last ten years, below-the-line revenues have grown from

ten per cent of Omnicom’s overall income to roughly 50 per cent.



Aside from Omnicom, Wreford has spent the last decade giving strategic

communications advice to the likes of McKinsey, Lehman Brothers and Nike

and orchestrating the recent successful campaign to let women join the

MCC.



John Wren, then in charge of DAS and now chairman and chief executive

officer of Omnicom, tried repeatedly to lure Wreford into a full-time

job. After ten years of courtship, Wreford has given in. ’Wren was

selling, I wasn’t on the buying market but it is a case of the one job

at the one company I want to work for,’ he says.



Wreford’s remit covers Europe for DAS, which houses the bulk of

Omnicom’s below-the-line interests, including PR. It has three

generalist international networks: Ketchum, Porter Novelli and

Fleishman-Hillard, plus specialists such as lobbying outfit GPC,

internal communications shop Smythe Dorward Lambert, financial agency

Gavin Anderson and Brodeur A Plus, a hi-tech specialist.



Wreford’s role is largely strategic. ’The brands are the heroes. DAS is

there to help in terms of growth and development,’ he says. ’It is about

helping them with acquisitions, leadership and succession issues.’



Omnicom has a three-tiered approach to acquisition and international

growth: buying international networks; filling weaknesses within

networks by buying indigenous agencies; and developing specialist

businesses internationally.



Much of Wreford’s efforts will be spent filling gaps in existing

networks, although developing the specialists will also be on the menu.

It is unlikely, he says, that Omnicom - which was so acquisitive that it

became known as Omnivorous in the late-1980s and early-1990s - will buy

another global network.



Colleagues and former clients describe Wreford as an excellent strategic

thinker and a facilitator who helps people and companies come to their

own decisions in their own time. Furthermore, they say, he has an

overwhelming sense of fairness, always looks for a solution, is never

short of ideas and has a dry sense of humour.



He is clearly looking forward to assuming the position, even if it does

mean less time for play.



HIGHLIGHTS

1981 - Founds McAvoy Wreford

1988 - Freelance consultant

1999 - President and chief executive, DAS, Omnicom



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