Close-Up: The Outsiders - the ECDs invading London

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 04 February 2011 12:00AM

As the industry struggles to supply enough home-grown creative leaders, agencies are again looking overseas for talent. But history suggests the new wave of foreign ECDs might struggle to find their place in London.

GERRY HUMAN

The South African taking over at Ogilvy & Mather already knows the challenges ahead. By Matt Williams.

Hugh Baillie is a man not afraid of making big decisions. In fact, ever since the Scot was named the chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather London in October 2009, he has set about making substantial (and much-needed) changes to the agency's management structure.

In has come a new managing director, a head of digital delivery and a new chief marketing officer. And when you consider that the head of planning, Rachel Hatton, only joined at the same time as Baillie, you can see just how extensively the agency's leadership team has been revamped.

The final thing remaining for Baillie to change was the thing that needed changing most of all - Ogilvy's creative set-up. The department has been lacking confidence, lacking direction and, perhaps most of all, lacking inspiration.

Many have put this down to the agency's rather unusual creative structure. Instead of having a single executive creative director, Ogilvy had four "creative partners" - Will Awdry, Dennis Lewis, Alasdair Graham and Greg Burke - and despite the agency constantly stating over the past three years that the set-up was working, the creative performance suggested otherwise.

Now Baillie has acted, appointing Gerry Human, Ogilvy's global executive creative director on Unilever, to oversee the entire creative department. Awdry, Lewis and Burke will report to him, but not Graham, who has opted to use the reshuffle to move on, joining Euro RSCG as the global executive creative director on Reckitt Benckiser.

Described as a straight-talking, "no-nonsense" South African, Human certainly brings with him a strong creative pedigree: 44 Cannes Lions and more than 50 gold Loeries, with those awards coming for prestigious brands such as Audi, Coca-Cola and Virgin Atlantic.

Furthermore, Human's CV suggests a man capable of turning an agency's reputation on its head. After spending ten years working at TBWA and BBDO in his native South Africa, Human launched his own agency, HarrisonHuman, in 1998. Within four years, it was named "Best small agency" in national awards, and had caught the eye of Ogilvy, which acquired it in 2003. The move saw Human join the Ogilvy board as the executive creative director of the network's ailing Johannesburg office, but it wasn't long before his presence helped turn the shop into the most awarded in South Africa.

After six successful years, he moved to London to become the executive creative director on Ogilvy's Unilever business.

"When you first meet him, Gerry seems quite a tricky and uptight character," one source says. "But spend some time with him and you will see a softer side, someone who is fiercely passionate about the work and who cares a lot about nurturing talent." What also quickly strikes you about Human is his refreshing sense of realism - a trait he'll need in abundance in his new London role.

Human is under no illusions of the task ahead of him, and while he admits that things won't change overnight, he is confident that he knows where change needs to be made: "My approach is always one of action and practicality. I want to create an instant visible energy shift in the creative department.

"For instance, I found that some of the people here had worked in the same creative department for a year but never even really spoken to each other. We have a really interesting, culturally diverse group of people, it's up to me to get everyone working together and pushing in the right direction."

As well as a cultural shift, Human also has plans for some structural changes too. "The creative department had become a bit random here - it wasn't clear who had responsibility for what. Now we will be giving people more accountability for the things they do, and I believe that the people here will thrive on that responsibility."

But while Human's approach may have worked in South Africa, will he be able to get the same results in the UK?

"I'm not going to pretend that the markets aren't different," Human admits. "In South Africa, you're mainly working on local clients, so you have to have a more entrepreneurial spirit, getting more involved with the main stakeholders. You can't get away with producing formulaic work, so it gives you the confidence to make braver decisions.

"But I think that's something the UK is lacking at the moment, and if you can mix this approach with the intellectual depth that you do get over here, then you can do something special."

And besides, Human points out, having been based in Ogilvy's London office for the past two years working on Unilever, it's not like he's coming to the country for the first time. In fact, he suggests, the way his previous role worked could give him a distinct advantage: "I've been able to look at things from a more objective angle. I know the work that needs to be done, it's now time to roll up the sleeves and get on with it."

PORTFOLIO

- Dove Men

- Greenpeace

- Harley-Davidson

ANDRE LAURENTINO

Ad award-winner, sitcom writer and novelist, can TBWA's new ECD revive its creativity? By Sara Kimberley

When Andre Laurentino was 15, he left his native Brazil for a visit to Scotland, and on a bus shelter in Edinburgh he saw one of Abbott Mead Vickers' classic 80s BT ads starring Maureen Lipman. It was enough for him to junk the dream of becoming an architect; now he wanted to work in advertising.

TBWA\London's new executive creative director pursued his new dream back in Brazil, becoming one of the country's leading creatives. Laurentino, known as Dede, wanted to be a copywriter, but the first job he landed was as an art director at the ad agency DPZ. A spell at AlmapBBDO in Sao Paulo was to follow, before a move to the integrated agency Lew'Lara, which later merged with TBWA.

At TBWA\Lew'Lara, Dede worked his way up to become the executive creative director, and presided over a number of award-winning campaigns for brands such as Visa, Nissan and Alca-Luftal.

However, while art direction was a space in which Dede clearly thrived, his passion for copywriting was a love that never really shifted. The desire to put pen to paper eventually saw him begin writing a comedy sitcom during his evenings, weekends - basically any time that he was away from the agency.

"Back then, looking at anything other than advertising was forbidden, as opposed to today when it is encouraged," he says. "So I did the sitcom on the side. I think when you're allowed to express yourself in any way you can, you become a better person."

The commitment paid off, and what started off as a hobby turned into something more serious. While his advertising career was thriving, Dede's sitcom was picked up by Brazil's largest TV network, and a novel he had written, Passion Of Amancio Amaro, attracted the interest of publishers.

"In our business, you can't afford to be personal in any way," Dede says, "so the writing gave me a different way of expressing myself."

Then London came calling. Despite having always kept a keen eye on the UK advertising scene (Honda "cog" is his favourite ad), Dede, 38, stresses that he hadn't necessarily been looking for a job abroad, or even a new job at all. But when the opportunity to work "in the Mecca of advertising" came along, it was too good an offer to turn down.

"The UK opens up things no-one has seen before, not just in advertising but also in comedy like Monty Python, literature and art," he says. "And the chemistry with (TBWA's chief executive) Robert Harwood-Matthews, (managing director) Andy De Groose and (chief strategy officer) Zaid AlZaidy was instant, so I knew TBWA was the right place to be."

Creating an open and accessible working environment is how Dede says he will run the creative department at TBWA\London when he joins later this month. This, he suggests, will instil confidence into his staff that's been clearly lacking of late, and also give his senior members the autonomy they desire.

"Every creative has an inner anxiety to prove themselves, so I don't think we need external pressure," he says. "The pressure has to come from within, otherwise you're not as keen a creative as you should be.

"The work environment should allow you to be spontaneous and be an environment you feel confident about working in, as opposed to doubting whether you can do it or not. The doubt will keep you awake. We have to create a place where we say it's OK to be ambitious as we all share the same goals."

So how will Dede's Brazilian style influence the way his new department works? "I think it will naturally be different, since I come from a different creative culture. Influence is a two-way process. I can't predict exactly how it will affect our thinking, but I'm sure we'll be much more creative together: caipirinha meets gin and tonic. One thing is for certain: it's going to be an exciting party."

But behind all the enthusiasm and idealism, Dede is under no illusions that the road ahead is going to be easy. For a start, he will have to slow down his pace of working, which he says is much faster in Brazil. Getting over other cultural differences, which he says will take him "all day to explain", might also become a barrier. Then there's the current state of TBWA's creative department, which has been left in turmoil after a merry-go-round that has seen two executive creative directors depart in the past three years, and has failed miserably in living up to the agency's former glories.

For Dede, though, the time for looking back at what TBWA used to be is over. The agency now has overhauled its management team, and it is this fresh spirit that gives him the confidence that TBWA can finally regain its pizzazz.

"It's refreshing to find such a diverse set of skills, all aimed at a single purpose," he enthuses. "We're ready to help make brands prosper."

PORTFOLIO

- Alca-Luftal

- Visa

- Nissan

THEY CAME, THEY SAW ... MOST DIDN'T STAY VERY LONG

MIKE STRAUSS - FCB London, 1987-1988

Strauss was working as the chairman and chief creative officer of FCB Australia when he was drafted in to help reinvigorate the network's London office. The move turned out to be a disaster, though, as Strauss struggled to assert himself and, in less than a year, he had returned to his homeland.

DAVE DROGA - Saatchi & Saatchi, 1998-2003

There were many who said that Saatchi & Saatchi couldn't have made a better hiring when it recruited Droga, who was at the time working in the network's Singapore office. Droga led the agency to Cannes success before moving to Publicis New York in 2003. Now runs his own agency, Droga5, in the US.

TONY GRANGER - Saatchi & Saatchi, 2003-2004

Whoever was to replace Droga at Saatchis had big shoes to fill, and Granger, who was lured from Bozell New York, lasted just 18 months before returning to the States to run the agency's New York office. He stayed in that role for three years before moving on to Y&R, where he is the global creative director.

MALCOLM POYNTON - Ogilvy & Mather, 2003-2008

Ogilvy went through an eight-month search before plumping for Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney's Malcolm Poynton as its new executive creative director. It looked like the wait was worthwhile as Poynton slowly raised Ogilvy's creative bar, but he left in 2008 following a management restructure.

CRAIG DAVIS - JWT, 2005-2009

Davis came with a strong reputation when JWT hired him from Saatchi & Saatchi Asia in 2005. The Aussie made quite an impact in London, and was promoted to a global role after just nine months at the agency. He has since returned to Australia and is working at Publicis Mojo.

STEVE RABOSKY - Ammirati Puris Lintas, 1998-1999

Rabosky was a relative unknown when he moved from APL New York to London in 1998 to overhaul the agency's creative output. But despite some initial positive signs, he became a victim of the agency's merger with Lowe Howard-Spink and returned to the US, where he is still working today.

MATT EASTWOOD - M&C Saatchi, 2001-2003

Maurice Saatchi caused a stir when he selected Eastwood, then running M&C's Melbourne office, to oversee the agency's London offering. Eastwood stayed for just two years, before taking up the reins of M&C Saatchi New York. Last year, he joined DDB as its executive creative director.

MATTHEW BULL - Lowe London, 2003-2006

Bull had been the chairman of Lowe Bull Calvert Pace in Johannesburg before making the move to London in 2003. He led Lowe's UK offering for three years before returning home to his old South African shop. Still at Lowe today, Bull is now the network's global chief creative officer.

DAVE ALBERTS - Grey London, 2003-2008

Alberts joined Grey from Australia's MojoPartners as part of Garry Lace's agency restructure in 2003. During his tenure, the agency's creative success was patchy and, in 2007, Alberts moved away from London to take over creative duties on Grey's global Fortis business.

MARK HUNTER - Euro RSCG, 2007-2009; TBWA\London, 2009-2010

Canadian Hunter had already worked in the UK (at BBH) in the early noughties, but it was from Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam that Euro RSCG poached him in 2006. Hunter moved to TBWA\London in 2009, but that marriage lasted little more than 18 months before he moved to Deutsch in Los Angeles.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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