Andy Gulliman was more than a little surprised when he answered his phone while larging it at his Bartle Bogle Hegarty leaving do only to find Saatchi & Saatchi's executive creative director, Tony Granger, on the line.
Gulliman, a senior TV producer at BBH since 1998, thought he had already made a major decision on the future direction of his career.
In leaving BBH he had taken the difficult decision to break from working at ad agencies and was heading for pastures new by signing on the dotted line with RSA Films to get experience in production.
But Granger threw a career changing-sized spanner in the works when he asked if Gulliman might be interested in coming to chat about the vacant head of television role at Saatchis.
So a mere three weeks after the RSA move was announced, a fresh press release was drawn up, this time telling of his move to Saatchis. Not surprisingly, Gulliman doesn't have much to say on his change of mind, merely stating that it was an "interesting three weeks".
But first thing's first. Gulliman was something of a prodigy at BBH and it's not clear why he wanted to leave the agency that made his name.
A look at his award-laden credits reveals some of the best ads of recent years. His work for Levi's, "twisted" and "odyssey", has won a black Pencil at D&AD, multiple golds at the British Television Advertising Awards and two Cannes golds. And Xbox's "Champagne" and "mosquito" landed a gold at Cannes and three D&AD silvers.
Gulliman is direct about his reason for leaving: change keeps you sharp. "I made the decision to leave BBH because I was worried I was becoming complacent and I felt I needed a new challenge," he says. "Part of my plan was to get production company experience to make me a better producer, so I made the move to RSA. But Saatchis is a dream opportunity that I have been offered now instead of later and I can't pass it up."
Gulliman, whose ambitious streak is evident, is not shy in admitting that a major draw was the power and prestige that running the television department at Saatchis would bestow.
"If another agency offered me the opportunity, I might not have been tempted," he muses. "The profile that the head of television at Saatchis has is high. It was big enough to lure me."
Indeed. As one associate put it: "He is almost as good as he thinks he is." But it is this exact brash attitude that Granger is looking for as part of his plan to rejuvenate the creative department.
"There were two streams of thought in looking for our next head of TV. One way would be to find a great head of television production who has done the job at different agencies and has a great track record," Granger says. "The other group was tomorrow's rock stars, the kind of person who is glass ceiling-ed. When I heard Andy had resigned, I approached him immediately. He represents the new school of head of TV production."
Granger is keen for Gulliman, who will work alongside the deputy head of TV, Manuela Franzini, to be hands-on and not just manage from behind a desk. And he has given him plenty of room to make his mark on the department.
"I have no doubt that he will probably restructure his department to make it more efficient," Granger says. "He will also be producing because he still wants to roll his sleeves up."
Gulliman's arrival is part of a massive programme of change that Granger's appointment has triggered. Granger says: "I liked that Gulliman has discovered a lot of new talent and is well connected to the young talent out there.
We have lost some people and employed some people but have a wonderful base of creatives here, changes are all part of the natural breathe in and breathe out of any creative department."
If there is a chink in Gulliman's armour, it's that his history at BBH means he's not used to getting his hands dirty with the kind of less exciting work many of Saatchis' key clients will demand. Much of his time will be dedicated to Procter & Gamble, more grind than glamour and unlikely to net awards.
Gulliman gets hot under the collar about this and refutes the accusation, pointing to the work he has done on the KFC account as evidence of his ability to work on all manner of clients. In fact, he claims that he derives more satisfaction from developing creative for clients that are generally considered "boring" to work on.
"With big, sexy clients come expectations of award-winning work, but what is also challenging and rewarding is the likes of KFC. When the account came to BBH, everyone was ducking and weaving working on it but it is a challenge to make the creative much better. It is the same as what was done with John West - that's tinned fish, it's not Levi's. The challenge is to take lower profile creative work and make it good or even great."