CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/WWAV - Haworth could provide the creative impact that WWAV is missing, Ian Darby says

At some time in the New Year WWAV Rapp Collins London hopes to

welcome back its prodigal son, Ian Haworth, to the newly created role of

executive director and head of creative. The exact timing of Haworth's

arrival depends on Tequila's willingness to release him before the end

of his six-month notice period, but his appearance will certainly create

an impact.



Haworth left WWAV in September 2000, partly because the Tequila offer of

the role of sole creative director was something that WWAV couldn't

match. The UK's largest direct marketing agency has clung to a model of

joint responsibility in its creative department with, until now, four

creative directors sharing power.



Adam Coleman, WWAV's chief executive, wants this to change and thinks

that Haworth's "inspirational and motivating" skills will be a valuable

asset to the agency. Campaign couldn't ask Haworth about the move

because Tequila made him agree not to talk.



It will be interesting to see if Haworth follows Coleman's lead in

attempting to change the status quo at WWAV. If so, he will be

continuing a shake-up that has already begun with the departure of Bob

Nash and Andy Todd, two of the four creative directors, last week. Nash,

in particular, was popular at WWAV and his leaving has come as a shock

to many.



WWAV's creative department is large - it numbers more than 50 - but for

the last decade or so it has always faced criticism. Where Abbott Mead

Vickers BBDO, the UK's largest ad agency, has led from the front by

setting creative standards, detractors argue that WWAV's creative is the

poorest part of its offer.



This is a harsh view that contains an element of truth. WWAV evolved out

of traditional mail-order origins, indeed its founder and chairman, John

Watson, was one of the shareholders in the commemorative porcelain giant

Compton & Woodhouse.



However, Watson and the other founders, including Chris Albert, the

creative director, realised that there is more to direct marketing than

flogging John Wayne and Star Trek plates.



WWAV swiftly evolved on the back of charity and financial services

clients and these form the backbone of its business.



Chris Barraclough, the chairman and creative chief at WWAV's Omnicom

sister agency, Proximity London, says WWAV's creative offer has been

unfairly maligned. "There is a latent perception that the work at WWAV

is formulaic," he says. "But it's a very proficient operation and has

very proficient standards of work. There is a perception that it is too

rigid in applying these principles but there are clients who want

that."



Haworth will have to strive hard to make a great impact because many of

WWAV's top clients are mass-volume mailers that want the proficient

service that Barraclough refers to. However, there are signs that this

is changing. Lloyds TSB, for instance, recently appointed Partners

Andrews Aldridge to work on the more "creative" campaigns in its

portfolio - a challenge to WWAV's hold on the account. WWAV can produce

strong creative (Toyota and NSPCC are examples) but needs to extend this

across its client base to stop clients defecting to creatively led

agencies. Hiring Haworth may be the solution.



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