CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/THE BMP CREATIVE CHALLENGE - Why BMP hopes two creative heads will be better than one. Paterson and Craigen plan to return BMP to its former heights, Jenny Watts says

Certain agencies are blessed with a creative heritage so strong it can withstand the knocks that would send other shops into turmoil.

BMP DDB has traditionally been seen as such an outfit. Dedicated single-mindedly to raising the creative bar over the years, it has won Campaign's Agency of the Year award four times, more than any other agency. However, the calibre of its recruits and the enduring legacy around them have been unable to prevent an apparent turbulent patch in the creative department that has seen the departure of several heavyweight teams.

Last June Neil Dawson and Clive Pickering departed for Bartle Bogle Hegarty, followed by James Sinclair and Ed Morris, who returned to TBWA/London. But it could have been worse. The agency seemed perilously close to losing yet another senior figure when the management discovered one of its doctors of creativity, Ewan Paterson, had resigned to be a writer at Lowe.

The move clearly acted as an accelerator to BMP, which subsequently offered Paterson dual creative helm of the department alongside the previous deputy creative director, Jeremy Craigen. The creative director, Larry Barker, would move to an executive creative director role.

BMP maintains it was already looking to expand the creative director role to two people. "No one person can do it on their own,

Barker says, with Craigen adding: "It's too big a job for one. The opportunity came to two of us, not one of us.

Although this might seem a happy coincidence following Paterson's possible defection to Lowe, those in the department point out it is nevertheless ripe for a change.

"The way it was working before, you're pretty well tied to your seat. You'd be parachuted in and parachuted out,

Barker says of his time as single creative head. "The ads always take precedent, which means lots of stuff ends up on the back burner, and that's not a good thing for an agency."

BMP's heritage forms the standard by which the agency is now measured. "When people say standards have fallen we're always compared to our very best year,

Craigen says.

Barker adds: "It's about maintaining a consistent position up there and trying to aspire to be number one while you can."

It looks like the promotions will herald a new - and some say overdue - era for BMP's creative department. Craigen's experience marks him out as a natural choice to step up into the role. Having been at the agency for 12 years since leaving Bates Dorland, he has lived through the legacy of John Webster and Tony Cox, being promoted to deputy creative director last October. "Jeremy's an absolute joy,

Dawson says. "He's very difficult to get ads through because he sets his standards so high. Some people get frustrated through that, which is ridiculous because he's right more times than he's wrong."

Paterson, who joined from Young & Rubicam in 1995, is described as more of a politician, prepared to play the boardroom game.

Both are well respected in the department and get a ringing endorsement from Dawson. "I couldn't see anybody else coming in above them. I don't think there's anyone better in London,

he says. Craigen and Paterson will now have total creative sign-off, but say of Barker: "We'd be mad not to use him."

Some suggest Barker's client skills and interest in new business will actually be better suited to the management floor, to which he can now decamp full time. According to Rooney Carruthers, Barker's ex-partner: "He's a good presenter. He's calm and calculated, and he does it very well."

However, others have suggested that taking Barker off the creative floor is tantamount to a sidelining.

Ross Barr, the joint chief executive of BMP, said: "I don't really see it that way. If you move people around to keep everybody engaged and playing to their strengths, then they're happy and successful in those roles and everybody benefits."

Barker responds: "It's up to the person. You can take the role and make what you can of it, or loll around and play golf. That's not what I plan to do."

Craigen and Paterson seem ready to give the BMP creative department a good spring clean. "Although we are aware of the BMP heritage, we believe it's our job to use what we learnt from Larry and Tony, and move on,

Craigen says. He's adamant things will become less autocratic: "We think we can combat that - we want to make it an open door policy."

The two are also reviewing the agency's director of creativity system, which has been criticised for dolling out responsibility without any effective power.

Paterson says: "The problem with the doc system is that it can stop people writing ads. Now there's two of us there'll be slightly less need for it."

Certainly, the pair seem ready to pick up the gauntlet. "We are aware work could be better and we're going to push people for it,

Craigen says.

"It's not a poisoned chalice at all, it's a real challenge."

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