So have Hurrell and Dawson hit upon thefuture?

By by Claire Beale, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 22 September 2006 12:00AM

Here's a question: If you were starting from scratch, on 21 September 2006, what sort of communications agency would you craft?

Would you have a creative director? A media strategist? How many people would you have? Would you be big and all-embracing, or small, high-end and flexible? Would you call yourself an "advertising" agency or find some new jargon to emphasise your mould-breaking ambitions?

To signal your future-facing, new era credentials would you staff up with discipline-neutral, unproven youngsters or go for big names who perhaps combine the wow factor with some ingrained, siloed prejudices? Would you structure the team around traditional roles and status-marking job titles or hammer a flatter structure around a more integrated approach?

No doubt Nick Hurrell and Neil Dawson have already agonised about these and many more issues. But their excitement at dumping the existing agency baggage, starting with a blank sheet of paper and creating a truly modern agency is palpable. And the fact that their departures from possibly two of the most comfortable jobs in advertising come at a time when there is a widespread identity crisis at the core of the advertising agency business only lends interest to their ambitions.

So what exactly is Hurrell and Dawson going to be? Well the short answer is "exactly the type of agency you would create if you were starting an agency today". The longer answer is a complementary mix of strategic and creative people with senior experience but a hunger to embrace a wider communications sensibility than their current roles allow. There will be digital and DM expertise, strategic media, perhaps PR - basically an ability to offer solutions across the gamut of traditional and non-traditional media, even outside the notion of advertising altogether.

The truth is that the definition of advertising itself is changing - broadening and deepening, so Hurrell and Dawson are shying away from using the word advertising altogether. It's a bold place to aim for and, considering they are funding the entire venture themselves, their ambitions to cover such a broad canvas with a heavyweight, sizeable team could seem audacious. They're aiming for the works: a modern, full-service proposition that is exactly where their hampered, internationally aligned agency competitors would like to be but can't.

It's testament to the passion and commitment of the pair that they are brave enough to bail out of their cosy agencies and comfy salaries (both have young families and the usual domestic financial demands, though Hurrell has made some money out of the M&C Saatchi flotation). Yet what's the alternative? To sit in front of clients week-in, week-out knowing there are plenty more ways to solve their business issues than the traditional agency structure either acknowledges or allows.

Can they pull it off? Well there's no doubt that it's a persuasive combination. The slick account man (Hurrell) groomed at heyday Saatchi & Saatchi and more recently the architect of M&C Saatchi's expansion internationally and into new business territories. The planner, one of London's most sought-after (Dawson), with a rigorous research background and a reputation for insight and creative thinking. Both, too, are likeable and compelling.

Key, though, will be the people they coalesce around them. The real challenge will be finding the right talent, people who combine experience with hunger and a real excitement for the future and are happy to join a new agency with somebody else's name already over the door. But I don't doubt that news of their venture will inspire envy and aggravate frustration among some of their peers and I wouldn't be surprised if Hurrell and Dawson find their proposition lures some really interesting people out of the woodwork, who share their frustrations and their passions.

claire.beale@haynet.com.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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