CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/JOHN QUARREY - DM stalwart aims to give Arc some creative clout. John Quarrey is planning an assault on Europe with Arc's launch

Arc, D'Arcy's new below-the-line network, was launched in the UK with a party at the London offices of IMP. The IMP name has gone after more than 34 years in the market but its London and European chief executive, John Quarrey, was still celebrating.

Quarrey, who has been with IMP for 15 years since joining as a junior account man, has been working hard on the launch of Arc for the past 18 months. Along with Wendy Riches, Arc's US-based president who joined from OgilvyOne two years ago, he has been one of its chief architects and will be responsible for leading the network forward in Europe as it takes on the likes of Wunderman, OgilvyOne and KLP.

D'Arcy has been anything but slow in knitting together its 32 marketing services operations into a single, clearly branded global offering. Nevertheless, it has been careful over recent months not to hurry the launch and Quarrey has been working with other D'Arcy Group executives on its positioning.

Last year Quarrey led IMP London to a good financial performance with profits up by 22 per cent and several substantial new-business wins. However, IMP is still viewed as promotions-led and its lack of success in major creative awards does not support Quarrey's claim that Arc will be a creative force.

Nevertheless, with the hiring of Graham Mills and Jack Nolan, the former Wunderman creative directors, Quarrey has stated his intention of raising creative standards in the UK and across Europe.

Quarrey, 38, joined IMP through a coincidence. One of his best friends at college was the daughter of the Texaco client, at the time IMP's largest account. Quarrey was introduced to IMP's then managing director, Chris Satterthwaite, kept in touch and was later offered a job.

Becoming a board director at 26, Quarrey continued to rise through the ranks and was handed the job of running the agency four years ago. In doing so he leap-frogged several more senior candidates but his reputation as the "blue-eyed boy at IMP seems to have been matched by respect for his ability.

Those who have worked with Quarrey tend to describe him as "very bright and capable and there is little lurking resentment surrounding his elevation those few years ago. Much of this may come down to him simply being one of the more likeable chief executives around.

But what qualities does Quarrey think IMP, and now Arc, possesses? "It has always been very young, vibrant and progressive. It's always attracted people with similar views who had a good time. Since the days of Chris (Satterthwaite) and John (Farrell), it's always been very egalitarian."

Some would argue with this. One former IMP director says: "It was hard to fit in unless you liked rugby and drinking a lot. IMP always had that sales promotion culture and it's hard to change this."

Critics of Quarrey argue he fitted easily into this laddish, promotional culture and gained preferment because of it. Unsurprisingly it's not the way he remembers it and given his ability it would be unfair to suggest a knack for fitting in was the sole reason for his rise.

Quarrey claims the agency has moved on over the years: "The big change came when IMP absorbed D'Arcy Direct about ten years ago. This added more strength to the direct marketing credentials. Since then we have added in new areas, such as Blue Marble in interactive, to change the agency."

IMP was seen as "unfashionable", Quarrey says. He adds that over the years it developed serious credentials outside of sales promotion. It had one of the first data planners in a UK agency in Mark Piper, who later left to join HHCL & Partners. Its creative offering under creative directors such as Mark Fiddes, David Harris and Jeremy Pemberton has also been under-rated.

Under-rated is a word that Riches uses to describe both Quarrey and IMP's UK operation: "I think IMP, and Clarion in the UK, have been under-rated. I hope that Arc will give them a new aura. We have extremely bright people in John and Karen Berlin (the chief executive of Arc's flagship US operation)."

Despite having global clients including Procter & Gamble and Philips, Arc is still a small player against the likes of OgilvyOne. Quarrey's role will be a key one in developing Arc's European network through acquisition.

Quarrey refutes the argument that IMP's European network is weak: "Over the past two years we have made real progress and acquired decent businesses with growing reputations. In Italy, for example, we had a promotional businesses that has diversified and grown into an agency of 130 in digital and direct marketing."

Some are surprised Quarrey has remained at IMP for so long, that unlike Satterthwaite, Ian Coleman and Ian Priest (the latter pair now half of Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest), he has not tried something else.

But Quarrey argues that it was not for a lack of offers: "It would be mad to say there weren't times when it was tempting to leave but you have to give credit to John Farrell, Lance Smith (D'Arcy's European director of operations) and Chris Satterthwaite for always making my job interesting."

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