CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/ANDREW CRACKNELL - Comeback kid attempts Bates revival/Bates UK wants its former chief to relive past glories, Francesca Newland writes

The past decade has been a rollercoaster ride for Bates UK. The 80s came to an unremarkable close, the early 90s heralded enviable growth and creative strength, but the late 90s have shunted the agency back into the doldrums.

The past decade has been a rollercoaster ride for Bates UK. The 80s

came to an unremarkable close, the early 90s heralded enviable growth

and creative strength, but the late 90s have shunted the agency back

into the doldrums.



Clearly, the lapse has not gone unnoticed by Bates’ senior

management.



Last week the agency re-appointed Andrew Cracknell as executive creative

director in what can be nothing more than an attempt to recreate its

success of the early 90s, with which Cracknell was closely

associated.



Cracknell’s departure in 1994, amid a very public flurry of litigation,

was one of Bates’ more colourful management changes of the past decade,

but there were others. As Michael Bungey, the head of Bates Worldwide,

summarises: ’The reality is that in the past ten years Bates UK has had

two chairmen, I was one of them, three chief executives, of which I was

one, and three creative directors, one of whom has now returned.’



Cracknell originally joined Bates in 1987 when Bungey was still running

the London office. Bit by bit the pair, together with Les Stern, the

planning director, and John Stubbings, the managing director, moulded

Bates into a profitable and creatively admired agency. Campaigns of the

era included Halifax ’people’, a Cannes Grand Prix-winning Heinz poster

campaign and Tennent’s Pilsner’s ’back-to-front’.



However, Cracknell’s re-appointment is unlikely to guarantee a return to

past successes. It comes at an unstable time for Bates UK. The network’s

European head, Jean de Yturbe, is reported to be interviewing a range of

candidates to take over the London office. It is unclear where such an

appointment would leave Graham Hinton, the agency’s chairman and the

former president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.



Bungey, speaking from his London office, is non-committal: ’I would be

surprised if the agency was talking to anyone about the chairman’s job.

I don’t spend that much time here. There are always things going on that

aren’t my responsibility. De Yturbe is responsible for the London

office.’



De Yturbe plays down the seriousness of the talks he has been having

with UK industry bigwigs. He says Hinton is staying in his job, but when

asked about the long-term future he says: ’We’ll see. The most important

thing was to refocus the creative product.’



He assesses Hinton’s performance as follows: ’The IPA has been taking a

hell of a lot of time with Graham. He was almost two or three days a

week doing God knows what. For the rest, he has done his job.’



Yet both Bungey and Cracknell claim that it is Hinton who has hired

Cracknell.



Bungey says: ’It was Graham Hinton’s conclusion. I support it. He felt

that there needed to be a change in the UK brought about in part because

Jay Pond-Jones (the former executive creative director) was not entirely

happy with his situation there.’



Morale is said to be at an all-time low at Bates UK and several creative

teams have recently left the agency. This is why some believe the

appointment of Cracknell has been hurried through. Cracknell asserts: ’I

can re-inject some self-confidence.’



Observers are unanimous that Pond-Jones’s unhappiness has contributed to

low morale, but morale was also dealt a blow by Hinton’s merger of Bates

Dorland with its below-the-line agency, 141. Some 27 staff quit the

agency because of the merger. Peter Crossing, the former chairman of 141

UK, says: ’They merged the bottom line which took profit share away from

my staff.’



He also questions Hinton’s dedication: ’Graham is always busy doing

something but no-one knows what. Internally, he’s not dealing with the

troops and externally, he’s not dealing with the clients.’



When Hinton took over in 1996 he inherited an agency that had recently

lost three key clients: P&O Ferries, Range Rover and Compaq. Cracknell

says: ’They were all profitable and all demanded good creative work.

Their departure led to a fall in income and a fall in confidence - all

the good people leave in situations like that.’



Subsequent losses have included Heinz and Cussons. Hinton says: ’We’re

working really hard to recover because we’ve had a hard time. We can’t

go through the changes we have without some fallout. Changing our

creative director in the middle is not ideal, but it’s the right thing

to do.’



Critics feel that Cracknell’s appointment is a backward move. However,

Bungey argues: ’He is a first-class creative director with a great

personality, strategic thinking and he’s a people motivator.’



Cracknell says his experience will stand him in good stead to bring back

stability and to oversee the integrated stance of the agency: ’I’m used

to an integrated creative department from my days at Ammirati Puris

Lintas.’



Whatever Cracknell’s strengths, the political issues he faces now he has

joined Bates UK are likely to dull his potential. With top management

looking insecure, it seems Bates has put the cart before the horse by

hiring Cracknell now.



Perspective, p14



TWELVE TURBULENT YEARS

1987

Andrew Cracknell joins Bates Dorland as creative director.

1991

Halifax ’people’ and Tennent’s ’back-to-front’ launched.

1992

Rover account moves to Kevin Morley Marketing. Michael Bungey, chairman

of Bates Europe, made president of Bates’ New York office.

1994

Cracknell agrees to be creative director of Bates’ New York agency on

the promise that he can return to his old job, if he chooses. Paul Twivy

joins from J. Walter Thompson as chief executive. Cracknell steps down

from the New York job but finds Twivy has replaced him with Tim Ashton

from Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Cracknell sues Bates.

1996

Graham Hinton appointed chairman. Paul Twivy departs.

1997

Tim Ashton ousted. Hinton hires Jay Pond-Jones as executive creative

director.

1999

Hinton merges Bates Dorland with 141 to form Bates UK. Pond-Jones

leaves. Cracknell replaces him.



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