Jessica Hubbard, Deputy Editor; 22 March 16
During a recent visit to SA, Adlip sat down with Jonathan Harries, Chairman, FCB Global, to find out about his journey in the ad world, and why SA is particularly important for him in his current role.
Harries was born in Johannesburg and grew up in Namibia, although he moved back to SA at age 13. In 1986 he left for the U.S., where he began working for Grey advertising agency as a junior copywriter (after holding a senior position back home). After a stint at Leo Burnett, he was asked to help start Hal Riney & Partners in Chicago.
“Hal Riney was one of the true legends of the business,” says Harries, “and no one even remembers him anymore. And Hal Riney was an amazing agency, with great accounts.”
Harries was at the helm of the agency for six years, until it was eventually sold to Publicis, the French multinational advertising group. He then moved to DraftFCB, as the ECD of the Chicago office, and later rose from CCO to Global CEO.
“Around five years ago I decided to leave, having agreed that I would work for another two years…”
He notes that when the Group was still DraftFCB, he had made the decision to retire. But when Carter Murray came in as CEO of newly formed FCB, he asked Harries to partner with him ‘and be the Global CCO’ in the interim.
Later they found Susan Credle for the role, signed her and she started in January. Harries was then asked to stay on as Chairman, and his strongest countries of focus have been South Africa and India.
“South Africa never ceases to amaze me,” says Harries. “If you went to and asked anyone in our network, South Africa would be [ranked] one or two – and it’s something that everyone in the network is really proud of.”
He adds that the recently formed partnership with the Maharishi Institute and the fact that FCB SA is now 51% black-owned ‘is enormous’.
“We’ve been pushing for something special to happen here [in SA] for a long time, and it was a brilliant idea (among leadership)”, he adds. “Everyone sees this place as an icon of what is great about our network.”