CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKERS/ADAM KEAN AND ALEX TAYLOR - Can ex-Saatchis stars sharpen Publicis' output? Kean and Taylor must look beyond Publicis' populist campaigns

The arrival of the former Saatchi & Saatchi stars Adam Kean and Alex Taylor should ensure you won't see too many dogs being trotted out of the Publicis creative department. However, it's more questionable whether the agency needs to strengthen its shelves for a sudden influx of Cannes Lions.

Kean and Taylor, who will take their place among the six group creative directors that report to the executive creative director, Gerry Moira, have a sackful of gongs. Ergo, the theory runs, the Publicis output, for so long personified by populist campaigns such as Renault's Papa and Nicole and Asda's pocket-slapping housewife, won't be just hard-working but award-winning too.

Publicis' client list has broadened in recent years and the place is starting to attract the kind of creatively led accounts, such as Army recruitment, on which Kean and Taylor cemented their reputations. Their arrival is yet another sign of the agency's maturation.

"The creative job has become too big for one person to straddle,

Grant Duncan, the agency's managing director, claims. But whether Kean and Taylor can lift some of the weight from Moira's shoulders, while simultaneously cranking up the creative quality, is a moot point, especially given their boss' hands-on management style.

Tellingly, the pair will not assume any management responsibilities within the department but work on specific major creative projects. Moira himself certainly doesn't see the group structure as a management tool. He describes group heads as "policemen without authority

who do "non jobs". Some, though, cite this flat structure, and the lack of a more meaningful creative hierarchy, as the true reason why Publicis' creative product is always OK, never bad but rarely shows flashes of genius.

"I've always felt that the agency has underperformed creatively,

a former senior manager admits.

Publicis began addressing the problem six months ago by having the creative directors from each of its operations reporting to Moira.

Kean and Taylor will join six other creative chiefs working to him. They include the newly promoted Keith Courteney and Andy Wakefield from the main agency, John Williams from Publicis Dialogue, and Mike Poole and Bernie Herlihy from Publicis Blueprint.

The eventual aim is to have all the group's creative teams, including the 28 from the main agency, operating as a single department. Moira says: "A lot of agencies talk about integration but you can't do it with silo creativity."

The quandary for Publicis may be in persuading Moira to relinquish some control so his acknowledged strengths can be exploited more fully. Some believe he should be a Trevor Beattie-like figure and the agency spokesperson Publicis has traditionally lacked, and that more thought should be given to the creative succession.

"Clients need only spend half an hour with Gerry to see how clever he is,

a former Publicis executive says. "He's a good thinker, fabulous presenter and great writer who gives clients a lot of confidence."

Kean and Taylor have clearly been beguiled by Moira's charm. "Gerry's a lovely man and there's a real chemistry between us all,

Taylor enthuses.

Those who know the pair believe their time as creative directors - including a short but not very sweet spell at Wieden & Kennedy for Kean - has caused them to make the fame of their advertising the true measurement of success.

"As creative directors at Saatchis we always tried to lead from the front and by example,

Taylor adds. "Adam and I are happy to be exploited and to do what we do best."

Their reunification revives a professional partnership that began almost a decade ago at Saatchis.

Friends believe it never died, even when Taylor left Saatchis in 1999 for commercials directing. A seven-month freelance stint at Lowe was enough to re-establish it. "We stayed longer than we planned because we really enjoyed working together again,

Kean says.

What's the secret of their partnership? Simon Dicketts, M&C Saatchi's executive creative director and one-time joint creative chief at Saatchis, puts it down to a combination of Kean's intelligent and persuasive writing and Taylor's fastidious search for perfection.

Kean joined Saatchis in 1987 on a two-week placement but stayed for 12 years. He and his then art director, Antony Easton, were among Campaign's Faces to Watch in 1989.

On Easton's departure in 1993 Kean teamed up with Taylor, resulting in a plethora of awards, most notably for the Army.

After the turmoil that followed the exit of the Saatchi brothers in 1995, Kean was elevated to the creative directorship. But he quit in 1999 following Dave Droga's arrival to take creative command, having turned down the job of regional creative director for Asia.

"When I left Saatchis I recommended Adam as creative director,

Dicketts recalls.

Taylor's mentor was Paul Arden, Charlotte Street's creative chief when she joined the agency in 1982. His influence seems to have bred an unquenchable passion for her work and an attention to detail. "There's no such thing as the perfect layout - but Alex will never stop trying to find it,

Dicketts comments.

Can the pair become the Publicis creative catalysts? "It's a refreshing development,

a former top manager at the agency comments. "But the jury is out on whether the creative environment can really allow them to blossom."

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