Graham Phillips calls himself a straight-shooter. Colleagues describe him as confident and unflappable. Effective immediately, the aerobatics pilot becomes worldwide chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Advertising, replacing the ascending Tom Bell.
Phillips is no stranger to running an agency, having served as chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide from 1989 to 1992. He then retired to scuba dive in Santa Barbara, Calif. Asked what lured him to Y&R's Burson-Marsteller two years ago, he says candidly, "It was the IPO that brought me back."
Last year, after serving as chairman of B-M, Phillips took the reins of Y&R's Diversified Communications Group. "He has been there, done that," said Bell. "I learned a huge amount from Graham."
Given his age--60--Phillips' appointment surprised some who view it as a way for Y&R to groom a long-term successor.
Phillips cited four reasons for taking the job. First, he wants to stamp out any "creative self-indulgence" and make sure clients know "we're here to get results." Second, he thinks it's time to get back to tackling a client's "front-end" problems, be it marketing or product launches. In addition, Phillips aims to make Y&R's online and offline capabilities seamless. Finally, he believes Y&R needs to move faster to keep up with changes in the corporate world.
How long will it all take? "At least a couple of years," he said.