Diary: Cracknell swaps Long Trousers for Shanghai surprise and sets sail

So farewell then, Andrew Cracknell. Or should that be au revoir, matelot? Word reaches us that the former Bates UK executive creative director has run away to sea. Or taken a slow boat to China, to be more precise.

With time on his hands after the subsuming of Bates' Cordiant parent into the WPP empire, the old salt has decided to pack his kit bag for two months and board a French cargo ship bound for China.

Whether Cracknell will be spending most of his time oiling the diesels or splicing the mainbrace is unclear, since the man himself is reluctant to talk about his voyage. "People will think I'm after the publicity," he says.

What's certain is that he'll be messing about on a boat rather bigger than his more usual mode of water transport, his yacht, the aptly named Severance.

But his departure begs the question of what will happen to his long-mooted start-up, to be called Long Trousers and specialising in advertising to the grey market.

Alas, it seems that the brainchild of the sprightly 57-year-old will remain unborn for a little while to come. But he insists that while Long Trousers "are at half mast, they're by no means removed".

As others have already discovered, specialising in the fiftysomething market sounds a good idea in practice, but the progress of winning over advertisers has been as fast as a granny on a zimmer frame.

Long Trousers may hitch itself up initially as a strategic and planning consultancy in the hope that the market takes off and that clients will eventually see the need for a full creative service.

Meanwhile, Cracknell is keeping cautious by not committing money or too much time to the project. As he tells friends, he doesn't want to reach 60 having "worked my bollocks off for the previous three years just to get my money back and make a few quid". Maybe the septuagenarians of Shanghai are a better prospect.

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