CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/TREVOR BEATTIE - Can creatives also make good agency chairmen? Trevor Beattie says the old role of chairman needs to change

'For the most part, I don't think anyone has taken the job by the

scruff of the neck and made something of it,' Trevor Beattie, the newly

appointed chairman of TBWA/London, says of his fellow creatives' track

record in the post. 'I think it's almost an antiquated position that

needs modernising. I want to dust it off.'



This is pretty bombastic stuff from someone who's yet to get to grips

with the job himself, but on the face of it, it's hard to disagree with

Beattie's point.



It's something of a challenge to name any creative chairmen of London

agencies - some no longer spring to mind as creative forces, others have

never made a particularly loud noise as chairmen. On the whole they can

cut rather a tragic advertising figure - a fading creature separated

from his core skill and allowed to gather dust in a corner office while

younger, snappier creative directors take over their old department and

chief executives and managing directors become the public face of the

agency.



'You have to be very careful of your own career and get the agency to

define exactly what they want you to do,' Andrew Cracknell, a former

chairman at Ammirati Puris Lintas, now returned to Bates as executive

creative director, says. 'It's easier at an owner-operated agency where

you can make up your own rules and slip in and out of position, but

otherwise you can get separated from your creative role.'



John Hegarty may have the owner-operator advantage at Bartle Bogle

Hegarty, but still seems very aware of the dangers. 'As soon as you stop

working on a piece of business, your creative relevance to the agency

diminishes,' he says. 'You feel cut off from the thing that makes you

good and you can wake up one morning when someone says you're not a very

good chairman and you're not able to go back to where you came

from.'



Hegarty's own safeguard against such a decline has been to retain a

significant degree of direct creative responsibility. He sees himself as

a titular chairman and he is by no means ashamed of it.



'I think it's about making public statements about where an agency's

heart lies and ultimately at BBH we believe in the power of creativity,'

he says. 'The danger is always that you get dragged into the running of

the agency as opposed to the creative. Trevor should become a symbol of

what the agency is about and that's very important. We should know that,

working in advertising.'



On paper Beattie seems perfectly placed to follow this type of advice.

Like Hegarty, he will be retaining his creative director role - and the

range of key accounts, such as French Connection and Sony PlayStation,

that he currently works on directly. His personal profile is the highest

of any creative director in London today and, as a symbol of effective

yet adventurous advertising, he's very well cast. He's also got a chief

executive, in Garry Lace, who has the enthusiasm and energy to handle

the day-to-day organisation of the agency. But it seems unlikely that

Beattie will be content to be a chairman in name.



'Stephen Marks is the best chairman I know,' he says. 'He represents

French Connection. He's everywhere and he's the spirit of the place. He

spends one day a year talking to the City of London and the rest of the

time talking to me and his staff.



'I want people to look at their chairman and ask what they're

contributing. What are they doing for the reputation of the agency?'



Beattie talks of managing the entire agency as a creative department and

of remaining the new-business face of TBWA - he's very proud of his

involvement in pitches and his close relationships with clients. But,

according to Cracknell, he may find himself compromised in the new

position.



'I don't think you can be a champion of the creative department and

chairman at the same time,' he says. 'Because as chairman you have to

see all sides of the picture. You need a creative director who will

occasionally provide tension with that.'



'At some point you have to decide whether you're a creative director or

a chairman for most of your time,' adds Greg Delaney, the chairman of

Delany Lund Knox Warren, who decided to concentrate on the latter. 'It's

very difficult to run your department at the same time as doing work and

leading the agency.'



Once again Beattie's chances of overcoming the difficulty may be better

than most. He's split the TBWA creative department between a raft of

group heads who run their accounts with a similar level of authority as

he does his own. 'You've got to hire people who are creatively more

talented than you are and you've got to be big enough to admit that,' he

says of the appointment strategy.



Beattie claims he's never wanted his own name above a door, which rules

out the ownership safety net enjoyed by both Hegarty and Delaney. He

remains ultimately vulnerable to the judgment of his parent network, but

he's also better positioned than most to prove that taking on a creative

chairmanship is worth the risk.



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