Profile: David Jones
It’s safe to say that at some point in our lives, we sit down with the old faithful pen and paper, and perhaps a bottle of wine for good measure, and write ‘the list’. You know, the one that begins, ‘Things I want to achieve before the age of…’
I wonder if, when writing his own list, David Jones listed becoming CEO of one of the world’s leading advertising agencies before the age of 40? This achievement at such a young age has seen Euro RSCG turn on its head and rejuvenate its international business growth beyond belief.
How has Jones achieved all this? “I guess not being good enough at tennis to turn that into a career was probably one thing!” he jokes.
On a more serious note, abandoning the ‘either/or’ dilemma when choosing which model – process-driven or creative – his agency should follow was a key factor behind Euro RSCG’s success. With Jones’s inauguration as global CEO in 2005, a new type of agency was born – an entrepreneurial and ideas-driven organisation, better able to reach a global market.
Graduating from Middlesex Business School in London, and Reutlingen Fachhochschule in Germany, Jones has lived and worked in the US, France, Germany, Australia and the UK, and is fluent in German and French as well as his native English. Working with many of the world’s premier brands, including Unilever, Dell and Orange, has led Jones to possess a global sensibility that has served Euro RSCG well.
Before joining Euro RSCG, Jones was, at the time, the youngest ever board director at AMV/BBDO, one of the UK’s leading advertising agencies. His big break came in 1998, when he arrived in Australia to join Euro RSCG as managing director, an experience that set him on his path to a fruitful career. From managing director to CEO of Australia in 2002, and Global CEO in 2005, this rapid succession of promotions, which coincided with the explosion of the digital market, was no small feat for someone so young. Jones obviously knew to dream big.
“At the age of 20, I did an internship at an agency that saw me take part in a big European pitch for a company called Henkel,” recalls Jones. “I was sent off to Germany on my own to meet with agencies and supervise research groups, and in the final pitch I presented – in German – to the Henkel Worldwide board. I think that experience, at such a young age, taught me anything is possible and gave me a taste for the world of advertising which I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
In the cutthroat world of advertising, Jones has learned that whoever has the best ideas wins. Maintaining a focus on creativity in this large global organisation is a key objective for him, but he finds himself in a fortunate position. “Agencies and people that go into the business want to be involved in, and love, creativity, so you’re not pushing against the tide.”
Jones knows he must ensure that Euro RSCG has a disproportionate share of the top creative talent, exercising their skill set and enabling them to deliver and bring to fruition brilliant ideas. Creating an environment where the top creative minds can grow and flourish is important to him.
“The businesses and companies that are thriving and doing the best are the ones with ideas at their core,” he says. “We really are living in the ideas economy and creativity is driving the business world today.”
As head of Euro RSCG, Jones’s ultimate objective is to deliver the best elements that comprise both global agencies and small creative ‘hot shops’. Although he views the traditional global network as a flawed model – an agency built on command and control, one size fits all solutions and people around the world doing exactly what they are told by someone sitting in New York, Paris or London – he does recognise their value in running individual businesses globally.
“Because they are present and on the ground in numerous markets around the world, they are better able to gain an understanding and learning from the local markets,” explains Jones. “Small creative ‘hot shops’ are great at coming up with a brilliant creative idea, but they are often fazed by the size and scale of big business. They don’t have people on the ground in different markets around the world, so for them to come up with genuinely global solutions to help clients on a global level is a real challenge. What Euro RSCG is good at, and which has driven its success over the last two years, is combining both.”
In today’s competitive industry and with companies such as BBDO and TBWA attempting to play in the same space, capturing big clients such as Jaguar and Reckitt Benckiser has helped secure Euro RSCG’s position as one of the major players in the advertising agency arena. Keeping such brands in the company’s portfolio is due in large part to Jones’ understandings of client needs.
“Ninety-nine percent of clients are looking for the same thing,” says Jones. “Growth. If an agency can consistently deliver brilliant ideas to help drive growth, then I don’t think clients will stray. It’s about building long-term partnerships, where clients understand that what you’re focused on is driving sales for them, and using ideas and creativity to do that.”
This philosophy, ‘to deliver brilliant ideas that drive your clients’ growth and your clients stay with you for the long-term’, is serving Jones well. Euro RSCG was pronounced the best global agency in the industry in 2006; it was the first time international industry titles Advertising Age and Campaign have agreed on the same agency of the year. The honour is validation, if Jones needs it, that what he is doing and achieving is actually getting noticed.
Although delighted by the accolade, he is not one to sit on his laurels, and is concerned that such an award suggests Euro RSCG may be at the end of its journey. He believes he has the mere foundations in place when it comes to what he wants to build by way of an organisation.
“I don’t want anyone to think we’ve got there yet, because we haven’t,” he claims. “We view ourselves very much at the bottom of the mountain climbing up, rather than already being at the top.”
Ever humble in his achievements, Jones is also keen to play down his induction into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement in 2005. For him, advertising is a team game and being named global agency of the year is of far greater significance.
“It was moderately nice to be inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement,” he explains. “But I was absolutely delighted when we were named global agency by Advertising Age and Campaign. There was no comparison, the team award wins.”
Through thoughtful and innovative leadership, and by effecting creative marketing campaigns for his clients, Jones has grown new business revenue for Euro RSCG by US$3 billion in the past 18 months. Not bad going for this young achiever. But far from putting his feet up and having a well-earned rest, Jones is having fun revelling in his next ‘five year plan’.
“The longer-term plan will be to retire to France and start writing books,” Jones laughs. “But the immediate goal is to make sure that five years from now, if you stop anybody who works in our industry and say ‘who is the best global agency’, we would be at the top of that list. My objective is to be seen as the world’s biggest and most brilliantly creative ‘hot shop’.”
So, in an ever-changing environment full of challenges, it would appear Jones has his hands more than a little full at present. This has come about due to the explosion of the digital world, which has allowed for a whole new level of connecting brands with consumers.
“Our job is about making our clients’ communications resonate and building their brand,” Jones explains. “Today, we have so many different tools that allow us to do that, but the principles haven’t changed. All that has changed is that the internet can influence so many more people today. The key thing moving forward is to crack the real code of how to take existing loyal customers and use them to generate word of mouth, using the brand loyalist model as opposed to the stranger model.”
The advent of web 2.0 is said by some to play a significant role in the future of advertising, providing yet another opportunity for marketing professionals to communicate with alternative audiences and, above all, establish a meaningful dialogue between brand and consumer. Although a huge proponent of all things digital, Jones actually finds “the whole web 2.0 jargon a bit boring”. He is, however, accepting of the role of digital in changing every single discipline of every single business. He is also eager to see agencies embrace digital and place it at the core of their business.
“The key to our success will be to stay at the forefront of it rather than wish we were back in the old age of the 30-second TV commercial,” he says.
Keen to stay abreast of the major changes and challenges within the advertising arena, Jones was one of the many media moguls to attend this year’s Cannes Lion International Advertising Festival (IFA). Generally regarded as one of the most prestigious international advertising festivals, the event is held annually during the third week in June and consists of a series of seminars, workshops and social events to inform attendees of developments in the field. It also provides the perfect opportunity to present Lion awards to those who have achieved successes over the previous year through adverts and campaigns.
It seems Jones was suitably impressed by the event this year, deeming it to have evolved from its early days. He reflects, “Ten years ago Cannes was viewed as a place where a bunch of crazy people went to get drunk and pat each other on the back for winning awards.”
Today, he believes it has become one of the focal points for the advertising industry. “I think it gets better every year and has become the most important event in the advertising business calendar. There are so many major clients there, plus the most senior people at an advertising agency level. The only problem was there wasn’t enough time to see all the things I wanted to. It’s probably the hardest working week of the year, but really good.”
David Jones really has proven to be the catalyst for change for Euro RSCG, re-energising and reshaping it from its very core. Still full of energy and enthusiasm for his chosen passion, would he encourage someone to follow suit and embrace a career in the advertising industry? The answer is unequivocal.
“My advice would be to do it,” encourages Jones. “It is absolutely the most fantastic and stimulating career. I describe it as being like a life MBA. If you have a highly curious mind, a short attention span and had a tendency to do the work for your exams the night before, then you are perfectly programmed for a career in advertising. It’s such a diverse business in which you meet interesting people and see the inside of different companies, business problems and challenges. You genuinely learn something new every day. It’s also the most exciting time to be in the ideas and communications business as so much is changing and the momentum is incredible.”