CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER - NIK STUDZINSKI. Studzinski joins Publicis at a crucial time in the shop's development

Talented performers in every field find being compared with other greats from previous eras a crushing experience. How many singers have been cursed by being hailed as the new Frank Sinatra? Will Wayne Rooney's young feet ever fit Gazza's boots? And is Nik Studzinski the new millennium's John Hegarty?

If so, then the Publicis agency in London has plucked a truly sparkling needle out of a giant haystack (Saatchi & Saatchi) in picking him to take charge of its creative department.

But if Studzinski, 33, resents being seen as the natural inheritor of Hegarty's mantle (and there are already those who say he has a valid claim), he's unlikely to make a fuss about it. "He's always calm and rational," one of his former bosses says. "I've never seen him shout and scream."

Another associate describes Studzinski, who was not available for interview for this piece, as "relaxed and confident in his work. A very nice bloke."

It's not just his even temperament that has drawn comparisons with Bartle Bogle Hegarty's global creative chief, but what is seen as the rare combination in an art director of a finely tuned and well-developed visual sense, coupled with highly articulate expression.

What's more, he brings these qualities to Publicis at a defining period for the agency. Having moved up the rankings to the third slot in the billings league, Publicis needs only to score a few creative direct hits in order to challenge the supremacy of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

Certainly it has a firm base of blue-chip clients from which to launch its assault. But it's that client list - Renault, Asda and United Biscuits included - that many believe has limited its chance to produce signature work.

"TBWA/London has had its John Smith's and fcuk, while Leo Burnett has had its McDonald's and John West," an industry consultant points out.

Publicis has a strong record of populist advertising, such as the long-running Papa and Nicole saga for the Renault Clio, he adds, but nothing that gets talked about down the pub and excites potential clients. "The time is right for a change of creative leadership."

Can Studzinski provide the extra vital spark? A string of awards, including a D&AD Pencil and a Campaign Press Award, bears testimony to his talent.

So does his work on Army recruitment, one of the most memorable campaigns to come out of Saatchis recently.

What's certain is that Studzinski - born near Crewe, despite his exotic name - will set about the job with energy and charm.

"Nik is always in earlier than anyone else and always the last to leave," John Pallant, the Saatchis European creative director, says. "He not only delivers work that's intelligent and different, but has a relaxed and unflappable manner."

Interestingly, Studzinski's move from Charlotte Street to Baker Street reunites him with two of the most profound influences on his career. One is Alex Taylor, the one-time Saatchis head of art, now a group creative director at Publicis. Taylor is credited with creating the environment that allowed him to flourish. Indeed, some believe she offered the kind of maternal protection he never found during a brief eight-month stay at BBH and that he missed Saatchis, the agency he joined from college in Hounslow 14 years ago and where he felt culturally at home.

Nevertheless, Bruce Crouch, BBH's former executive creative director, who hired him for the agency, remains a fan. "I always knew he'd make it to the top," Crouch, now the creative chief of Soul, says. "All art directors can do concepts but it's rare to find one with Nik's visual sense."

Studzinski's other mentor has been Dave Droga, who not only lured him back from BBH to be part of his creative revival at Charlotte Street but came back for him after his appointment as the Publicis worldwide creative director.

Certainly, Studzinski makes no secret of his ambition to succeed at the highest level. "I've wanted to make the next step towards running a creative department for the past year or so and Dave has been aware of that," he says. Some also see Studzinski as evidence of Droga's authority within the Publicis network and his determination to impose a creative regime change.

His appointment to succeed the agency's current creative chief Gerry Moira, coming in over the heads of Taylor and fellow group creative director, Adam Kean, may ruffle some feathers. He may have reported to them while at Saatchis, but he's about to take on the top job at Publicis and will now see them report to him.

What remains to be seen is how well the protege can adapt from a working creative to administering a creative department of 30 teams. And whether he can establish demarcation lines between himself and Moira, who will devote himself full time to the chairmanship.

Moira believes Studzinski's big contribution will be in boosting the quality of its print output. "Our client profile means our TV reel is strong," he says. "As an art director, Nik will bring more scrutiny to print work. And we could certainly do with winning more awards."

Many onlookers would agree. A former Publicis senior manager says: "It needs more domestic business and it can only get it with ads that wow people. This is where Studzinski can make a difference."

Topics