‘There’s Oxygen in the Building Again’ Now That He Has Been Replaced
NEW YORK–The notion that the ad business is based on relationships was reinforced last week as Rick Hadala’s tumultuous six-month stint as CEO of Ammirati Puris Lintas North America came to an end. APL chief Martin Puris said Hadala’s exit was due to irreconcilable differences.
Other executives said Hadala’s abrasive personality alienated staffers and clients and was the key issue which led to his firing last Monday morning.
Hadala didn’t fit from the start. The former McKinsey executive brought with him the conceit of the consulting world and a healthy disdain for agencies, according to sources.
“He approached [the agency] like it was a manufacturing company and treated the people like they were secondary,” said one executive.
During the past year, APL has suffered several client defections (Compaq, OnStar, Ragœ), senior management turnover, bad morale, and confusion over the agency’s direction.
Although he’s been described as smart, Hadala’s “personality problems were so acute that they stifled the positives,” said one source. But another said, “If you’re really that smart, you get people to rally around you.”
Hadala was surprised by his effect on people.
At the APL Christmas party, Hadala told a colleague, “I can’t believe how emotional everybody is in this business.”
Hadala’s less-than-delicate approach also extended to clients. “He was notorious for coming into a client meeting and telling them what was wrong with their business,” a source said. “You can’t come in and tell people their children are ugly.” Officials at Johnson & Johnson and Unilever declined comment; Hadala could not be reached.
Staffers responded enthusiastically to the arrival of Jim Allman, the APL multinational client director on Unilever, who replaces Hadala [see story below].
“It was instantaneous. It’s like there’s oxygen in the building again,” said one senior executive.
Jim Watkins, svp of North America marketing at Burger King, said, “We’re very happy with the level of full-service from the team we have at Ammirati Rick Hadala didn’t bring anything to the relationship and therefore his departure isn’t taking anything away.”
APL intends to continue with its “evolution” into a communications company, providing consulting services among other offerings. “The concept is right, the personalities weren’t,” Puris said. “We’re still feeling our way through it.” He added that APL is a year-and-a-half away from completing its transition.” That’s if all goes well. As one source put it, “The game plan now is stability.” –with Judy Warner
Get Adweek's Brand Marketing Daily Newsletter in your Inbox
Today's highs and lows of creativity