Close-Up: Why Mike Cavers quit Publicis to join Chemistry

Claire Billings finds out what lured the Scotsman known as Captain Caveman to the low-profile communications group.

The news last week that Mike Cavers is leaving Publicis Dialog to become the executive creative director of the integrated agency Chemistry came as a surprise to many in direct marketing.

It was less the fact that he was heading out of Publicis Dialog after six successful years and more his choice of destination that sent jaws dropping.

Chemistry - a group consisting of a DM agency in London, a digital agency in Nottingham, an events and publishing company and a newly acquired integrated agency called Worth Communications - is not the brightest spot on many radars. It made a few fleeting headlines in 2003 when it won the £10 million UK Microsoft customer relationship marketing account, but slipped again when the computer giant consolidated its £300 million global DM business elsewhere.

Since then, Chemistry has been known mostly for its Unilever work (it recently won a place on the UK digital and DM roster) and Diageo. Its management keeps a low profile and it's not a big award-winner.

However, in hiring someone of Cavers' stature, the agency is signalling its ambition to change all this. Cavers is among the most experienced names in the industry and a regular face on awards juries. A Scotsman, affectionately known as Captain Caveman, he likes to play the gruff Jock. According to one of his peers, he has a controlling, masculine side to his character, although this is tempered by his love of fine wine and the fact that he escapes to the countryside of the Dordogne every weekend to his family home. He's not scared of voicing his opinion, which is what makes him such a popular choice as a judge. His career includes a stint at Tequila and ten years at Limbo, Bartle Bogle Hegarty's former DM arm, where he worked with the likes of Steve Stretton.

So while there's little doubt why Chemistry has spent the past few months enticing Cavers away from his comfy network job at Publicis Dialog, the question on everyone's lips is: what attracted him to move?

To start with a negative, sources say Cavers was unhappy with the details of the plans to integrate Dialog with its above-the-line sister agency.

However, Cavers is keen to emphasise the positives. He says Chemistry's approach to customer insight was a powerful lure. "It has in-house analysts rather than just data planners," he says. "The more you understand about what consumers are doing online and in-store, how they're responding to activity, the better your communications are going to be.

"It puts the best resource and effort against defining the creative process. It wants me to bring that intelligence to life across its specialist areas."

Also, he's convinced Chemistry's model will allow it to best serve client needs."Chemistry has put together specialist companies to deliver integrated communications, because it's about building teams around clients' businesses," he says. "It's not about matching luggage -it's that you talk differently to people in different channels."

Cavers' remit will cover all Chemistry Group's companies, and creative directors, including Claire Elworthy, who heads the creative department at the DM agency in Fulham, will report to him. His appointment is a coup, and sends a signal to the industry that the agency is serious about raising its profile, upping its creative product, and growing its business.

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