Nick Brien at the Top | Adweek
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Nick Brien at the Top

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Worldgroup's outgoing CEO is very much in the mold of the network's previous chiefs. Despite McCann's historically global reach, its top managers have been U.S.-centric and groomed from within the agency's traditional New York account management ranks. Brien, a more cerebral exec with less than five years at IPG or Worldgroup, has experience in agency, media and marketing services, and has none of the long-standing loyalties within the firm that could stand in the way of changes needing to be made.

Not surprisingly, Brien's appointment is stirring considerable nervousness within Worldgroup as insiders realize he'll need to remove those who pose obstacles to creating more genuine collaboration with Worldgroup, a place known for its independent fiefdoms and management pushback. "The big issue at Worldgroup is structural and how do you make these disciplines work better together. But from that structural change may come people change," said a source, "How will people accept that way of working together and apply it to new models?"

Another observer noted: "There are a number of people in key positions at McCann who are strong. But there's also a hard-core, old-time group ... who absolutely adhere to doing things the way they were done in the '90s. The whole Worldgroup model of having separate disciplines under one roof is stuck [there]. Even the way they respond to problems is to often bring back people who have retired. It's like a comfort zone where they are bonded together and resist change. John Dooner has protected them, even if he doesn't necessarily think like that."

Brien declined interview requests, saying he didn't want to talk publicly until he has the chance to meet with key McCann execs. But Dooner, who becomes chairman, said the transition would start immediately.

Dooner said Brien's background, along with running UM's global operations, prepares Brien for the job. "He has a total sense of what contribution these disciplines can bring to Worldgroup," said Dooner, "and coming out of media with that understanding of digital, he'll bring new energy to Worldgroup. He's a true globalist." --with Steve McClellan and Andrew McMains