Stefano Hatfield on Advertising

Don't believe the doom-sayers: the ad industry is looking up
Click to follow
The Independent Online

What a great time to be an advertising agency entrepreneur. No, I am not still on the Caribbean vacation rum. And yes, I know that you have become used to the doom and gloom that accompany most commentators' analyses of the ad industry's future.

Look at the last week alone: Amsterdam's Strawberry Frog beat the might of the McCann-Erickson empire to an international campaign for Heineken beer, and Clemmow Hornby Inge won a huge Toyota project: the pan-European launch of the new Corolla, once considered a rock-solid brief for Toyota's global agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

Then, there's Mother, about to relaunch Orange in the UK by going back to its "The Future's Bright, the Future's Orange" roots - a 1994 launch positioning the mobile phone giant abandoned far too early in its brand history.

In truth, for some time now, all bets have been off on virtually every pitch you care to mention. Account after account that was once considered the preserve of the big agency networks is leaking out of its income buckets to small independent shops. They don't have the networks needed to handle the accounts, of course, but the big change is that clients no longer seem to care - they just want more inventive ideas, whoever and wherever the source.

Today, they will just ask their monolithic agency of record to run the international account. They, in turn, are not going to refuse, terrified as they are of losing the rest of the business. Add the ubiquitous nature of independent media buying arrangements, and you don't even need to set up the kind of "hub and spoke" network arrangements pioneered by all independent entrepreneurs' heroes: Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Wieden & Kennedy.

Throw in the extraordinary amounts of money B-Plus-type agencies Delaney Lund Knox Warren (which grew on General Motors business) and VCCP (which handles the O2 campaign) have made recently by selling up, and what's stopping you from going off to set up yourself?

SO, WHILE I was away, it was confirmed that Jim Heekin, ex-Euro RSCG and McCann-Erickson boss, is to join Grey Worldwide as global CEO and chairman, and the heir apparent to Grey Global's architect, the inimitable Ed Meyer. I'd write "as predicted here" but it was predicted everywhere. To borrow a slogan from McCann, the "truth well told" is that it's about time a successor was anointed, but when these jobs come up, the talent pool is shallow.

Heekin is the kind of US big cheese businessman who wears white collars on coloured shirts à la Donald Trump, and will crush your hand in greeting, staring straight through you with a dead smile. I remember being in Ben Langdon's office at McCann once when his receptionist informed the then McCann London boss that Heekin had arrived at the London agency unannounced. Cue kittens.

Heekin's a manager's manager, and a totally understandable WPP hire. Will he now move for Langdon again in London, having hired him at McCann and Euro RSCG successively, and with one-time enfant terrible Langdon now subject to a still younger global boss at Euro in David Jones? I'd be surprised, and not just because Grey has only just appointed the sparkling, smart, P&G-connected Tamara Ingram as its London CEO. But you can be sure headhunter Gay Haines, the Pini Zahavi of London advertising, will be watching it all closely.

CHRIS INGRAM WAS always more interesting and personable than his somewhat dour public persona suggested. There are not many people who have so successfully endured the wrath of an entire industry to turn it on its head, as his did when setting up the independent media buying agency CIA in 1976 (then a radical idea). He then survived decades of thick and thin eventually to get one over his personal bête noire, Sir Martin Sorrell, selling his Tempus Group to his one-time unwanted suitor at the top of the market for £435m.

Despite having walked away personally with £64m, Ingram does a studied line in anti-glamour - note his continued loyalty to, and investment in, Woking Town Football Club. His new Ingram Partnership consultancy has quietly gone about garnering respected industry partners (Carole Fisher, Leslie Butterfield, Andy Tilley, Ivan Pollard, Duncan Bruce) and blue-chip clients - notably London 2012 and Mercedes-Benz - in equal measure.

Now he has opened in New York with the acquisition of Consumer Dynamics, a downtown consultancy specialising in consumer insights, trends analysis and new product development. Its clients include Gillette and Sara Lee. It doesn't sound that sexy, but then what the iconoclastic Ingram does rarely creates a splash. But he has the ear of major clients at the CEO level, and with the Tempus sale made more than any British advertising executive has ever made from a deal. You would never bet against him being on to something. With £64m in the bank, sexy is relative.

CONSPIRACY THEORISTS will read more into Cindy Gallop's departure from Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York, now that American Steve Harty has been named chairman. Harty, one-time co-founder of the much admired Merkley Newman Harty, is to be the public face of the agency that is now run by the relatively low-profile British CEO Gwyn Jones. It is clear that the 130-staffer agency, which has $375m in billings from clients such as Unilever, Levi's and Diageo, believes that it needs a more American face to take it to the next level. Harty has a good reputation going back to his Merkley days, and he brings strategic marketing experience with him from his last role at IPG's Lowe Plus consultancy. It's certainly a change in tone for BBH. I cannot know for sure, but it is unlikely that he shares Gallop's penchant for bustiers, heels and all things Gucci.

BY THE TIME you read this I will have returned to the UK after five wonderful years in New York City. To my mind, the biggest change during that period (other than what has happened to my beloved Leeds United) is neither the inexorable rise of the internet nor the return to advertiser-funded content, but it's got to be just how global the ad business has become. Many, if not most, of the senior people moves, account decisions and major new campaigns impact both sides of the Atlantic. (See most of the above stories.)

That's not to mention how many non-Americans are now in senior positions in the US. I agree with WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell's oft-stated view of the "Americanisation" of the ad business, and will be fascinated to see how this is reflected in what was parochial London. Nevertheless, although Craven Cottage will struggle to replace Yankee Stadium in my affections, I look forward to escaping the mind-numbing banality and meaninglessness of American car dealer, fast food and financial sector advertising, and not zapping my way through every ad break. Or am I viewing British creativity through the rose tint of nostalgia? Watch this space.

Hatfield's best in show: road safety public information film

I guess someone had to do it: a major campaign filmed using the type of mobile phone video so brought to the public's consciousness after the London bombings. Here, in the DoT's latest traffic safety spot aimed at teens, the technique is used to extraordinary effect by Leo Burnett and the excellent director Chris Palmer. We feel as if we really are intruding on the teen group's private interactions as the kids lark about in the street. The moment of horrific impact is therefore all the more powerful for being still more removed from the "slickness" of advertising film. Powerful stuff.

The writer is senior editor, Metro International, and a former editor of Campaign

Comments