Mark Griffiths looks slightly uncomfortable, as if he would rather be somewhere else. But last week's news that he is to be the new interactive creative director at WCRS has aroused Campaign's curiosity - hence the attention. Griffiths has emerged from the old school digerati to take up perhaps his biggest challenge yet at WCRS. His brief? To integrate the old and new creative disciplines within the agency.
It's been said a million times, but is much less easily done. Having traditional ad creatives working alongside new-media designers and art directors is an art that few, if any, agencies have perfected. In all fairness, such an initiative has been taken by a number of the traditional advertising agencies but practising what they're preaching has yet to become a reality.
Griffiths picks up the gauntlet at WCRS from his predecessor Steve Vranakis, who founded the agency's e-brands division and was a former colleague of his at Modem Media. However, the prospect of FCB San Francisco proved too good to resist for Vranakis, who left to return to the States in November last year.
Originally from Nottingham, Griffiths was chucked out of art college at the age of 17 for what he vaguely refers to as bad behaviour (accompanied by an obscenely mischievous twinkle in his eye). He is a prime example of bad boy done good. Having lost faith in the system, he spent the next few years working in music production and graphic design, and creating backdrops for music gigs, installations and club nights.
It wasn't until he was 25 that Griffiths returned to college, to study graphic design and communications in Croydon, and discovered Modem Media through a friend of his working there.
Up until then, he had no new-media portfolio. Griffiths isn't your stereotypical new-media creative whizz-kid, beavering away in a darkened bedroom learning how to code. Creativity has always been primarily about ideas, and both Modem and Vranakis, who was the interactive creative director at the agency at the time, recognised that straight away.
So Modem Media took him on in a senior art director role from scratch.
The digital shop's talent for, well, talent spotting was not missed by the other agencies, and in fact it has proved to be a fertile hunting ground for many, both new media and traditional. Gluemedia's Mark Cridge was a former colleague of Griffiths at Modem, as was Jason Young, formerly the creative director at Agency.com and now at Pixelpark.
During his stint at Modem, Griffiths worked on a number of the Unilever brands including Lynx and Persil. He was the driving creative force behind Persil's interactive TV advertising, which ran last year and won a couple of awards. Having made a name for himself in the digital world, Griffiths couldn't resist the challenge of trying to crack traditional advertising.
But that's another reason why he is nervous about press coverage - he prefers to let the work speak for itself and is reluctant to create a climate of expectation for his arrival at WCRS in mid-March. Hype or no hype, there is no doubt that the man is definitely trouble. 'I do like to rock the boat, I do like to shake things up,' he says.
BMW, the National Lottery and, of course, Vodafone will be just some of the accounts to receive Griffiths' attention following his arrival.
Leon Jaume, WCRS's creative director, and Griffiths will be working side-by-side at the agency. Unusually for a traditional creative, Jaume shares Griffiths' vision about the importance and integration of new media. He was instrumental in Griffiths' appointment and is hell-bent on making new media as involved a part of a client's advertising as TV and press.
'He doesn't understand new media yet,' Griffiths says of Jaume, 'but he understands that it's the future, and wants to find out why and how it's the future.'
Jaume has hinted that within a year or two he doesn't expect creative departments to exist separately within the agency, but hopes that all creatives will work across all platforms.
Griffiths has been surprised by the level of resistance to digital within the traditional advertising world.'As soon as traditional creatives say no to something, say they won't accept it, then they stop being creative. But I see this as a real opportunity and the chance to do the kind of thing which I've been preaching for years: that the creative campaign needs to work as a whole entity, not as separate mediums.'
The conflict between the new-media and traditional advertising industry has never been better demonstrated by Griffiths' attitude. He, alongside most people who arrive in the industry from a new-media background, has a distinct air of cynicism for anything digital coming out of the traditional advertising agencies, although he believes they have potential. He says: 'I think that big business is trying to monopolise a free technology badly.'
Yet this is coupled with a strong desire to gain recognition, support and approval from those very same agencies for new-media creative work.
Selling out to the big boys? Hardly. New-media vigilante? Sounds like it. Things are about to get interesting.