By Katherine Levy, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 11 October 2012 08:00AM
For those who have never met Richard Morris, the newly crowned managing director of Vizeum, he would be well-cast, in style and manner, as a character in Downton Abbey. He is, quite simply, a gentleman; he makes for very pleasant dinner company (and, we like to imagine, would be a dab hand at croquet).
It's not a massive surprise, then, that when we ask those who know him to tell of his strengths, the thing that crops up time and again is how charming he is with clients. His now former boss, Carat's managing director, Tracy De Groose, says that "clients adore him" and that what stands out is "his ability to build very strong relationships with clients and to be as passionate about their business as they are".
But that's not all. De Groose says emphatically that Morris, who started as a graduate at Carat and worked his way up to the head of planning and then deputy managing director, "has got it all". She enthuses: "He's an all-rounder. He's a people person, he has really good strategic vision, and he's had a great 18 months at Carat (since he was promoted to deputy managing director) and demonstrated that he can win new business."
De Groose says Morris was instrumental in some of Carat's big wins of the past year: "The new business he has brought in is often off the back of very strong relationships." With Gocompare.com, a former MEC client, Morris apparently built up a good relationship very quickly with the marketing director. With Wickes, another big account that moved from MEC at the start of the year, it didn't hurt that Morris had worked with the client before and had clearly left a good impression.
But there's more, because Steve Aldridge, the creative partner and chairman of Partners Andrews Aldridge, who has known Morris for 12 years and will now be spending quality time with him over their shared client, BMW, also highlights that Morris has a creative streak. "He thinks differently; he's a creative media guy. He understands content and ideas, and he can help you realise them in ways you hadn't previously thought of," Aldridge says. "He is looking for intelligent solutions all the time and, as a creative, you want to work with somebody like that."
When we sit down and speak with Morris, it is clear that such comments are not exaggerated. He admits that his appointment as Vizeum's managing director came as a pleasant surprise, rather than something he had long been groomed for. However, he knows exactly where he wants to take the agency now that Grant Millar, who headed Vizeum for seven years, has moved on to the wider role as global brand director for Carat.
Morris agrees that, in comparison with a bigger, bolder Carat, Vizeum has been quiet of late. However, while he believes Vizeum could do much more to shout about the work it does, he disagrees that its older sibling doesn't leave room for the sister brand. "Personally, I've never seen Vizeum in the shadow of Carat," he states. "I've seen it as a very distinct proposition and that is really manifested in its people and the way it goes about solving clients' problems."
Naturally, it is reassuring that Vizeum's new leader genuinely believes in the distinct proposition of the Aegis-owned agency. But what exactly is this uniqueness that it talks about in its 2012 Campaign school report, when so many media agencies struggle to articulate a point of difference?
Those who recall when BBJ was rebadged as Vizeum nearly a decade ago will remember it was made clear that Vizeum would be a network that could pitch for businesses that Carat was already conflicted out of, while offering new technology resources for clients and greater levels of strategy back when Carat focused its energies on buying. But has it delivered on these criteria?
Morris is quick to defend the brand. "Vizeum was born bang in the middle of the digital era in 2003. I come here and I see the work and, obviously, I haven't had a chance to influence that work yet, but it really does - as our brand positioning says - start from a different place," he explains. "We don't think of digital as an add-on to a traditional communications mix - it's something very much at its heart."
It is also perhaps easy to forget that little, mild-mannered Vizeum looks after one of the world's biggest and most-influential advertisers: Coca-Cola. Other clients include Ikea, Stella Artois, 20th Century Fox and Heinz, as well as BMW and Mini. Morris points out: "If you just look at that client portfolio - and the brands that we have the privilege to work with - there are incredible challenges and incredible brands that the teams are working on every day."
Morris says that a big priority is "to produce and become famous for producing work that changes clients' businesses". He says that, while Vizeum has been quiet of late, that doesn't mean it is not creating great work: "It's simply being hidden from view."
But, this year, Morris hopes that could change as Vizeum has ramped up its efforts to enter industry awards and get recognition for its work. "I've always been aware of the great work that Vizeum produces - we have always been jealous of some of the stuff they have done in the past, where I wished I'd thought of that - but that hasn't been as conspicuous as it could have been," he says.
Maybe now Vizeum can finally get the recognition it deserves.
Lives: Weybridge, Surrey
Family: Kate, Daphne and Delilah
Hobbies: Tennis (playing), football (watching)
Favourite media: The BBC, Google
Desert island must-have: A pair of Vilebrequins
I spend most of my money on ... Handbags
Breakfast is ... Coffee
Mantra: "Do unto others ..."
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk