LIVE ISSUE/FALLON McELLIGOTT LONDON: Can Fallon’s Midwest style work in the UK market? Emma Hall discovers what made five adland ’names’ join Fallon’s London office

Andy McLeod is getting married. Robert Senior’s wife is several days overdue with their second child. Michael Wall is moving house to accommodate his expanding family. But, along with Richard Flintham and Laurence Green, they have all still found the time to throw themselves into the biggest challenge of their professional lives.

Andy McLeod is getting married. Robert Senior’s wife is several

days overdue with their second child. Michael Wall is moving house to

accommodate his expanding family. But, along with Richard Flintham and

Laurence Green, they have all still found the time to throw themselves

into the biggest challenge of their professional lives.



That challenge is to make a success of the new London office of the US

agency, Fallon McElligott, and ’to be the premier creative agency in the

world that produces extraordinarily effective work for a short list of

blue-chip clients’.



The above ’mission statement’ appears on the screen of every Fallon

employee in the US when they start work in the morning. And they usually

start pretty early.



Will Fallon work in London? The announcement that Richard Flintham and

Andy McLeod were leaving BMP DDB to become the new agency’s creative

directors has to give it the best possible chance of success (Campaign,

4 September).



Larry Barker, the creative director of BMP, says: ’It’s not often that

truly great creative teams start agencies. They also have a lot of sense

and they are good with clients. If they play it right, they’ll

flourish.’



But mission statements aren’t terribly British nor very BMP, where the

ethos is modesty and understatement all the way. So, asked whether the

mission statement will appear on the screens of the Fallon start-up in

London every morning, it’s not surprising that the five partners appear

a little uncomfortable with the idea.



’There is a bit of Midwest gloss in there,’ Senior acknowledges, ’but

integrity rings out from it and we like the fact that it is so

monstrously ambitious.’



’What better mission could you have,’ McLeod leaps in, ’than to do great

work for great clients?’



A nervy, restless enthusiasm emanates from the five partners as we drink

coffee at the Cafe Royal, close to the Regent Street offices currently

being refitted to accommodate them. Flintham says: ’We have all traded

fulfilling and rewarding jobs for excitement. It is good to be nervous

always.’



Clearly everyone is dying to get on with it. After all, Robert Senior

and Michael Wall left TBWA Simons Palmer at the end of May, and Laurence

Green quit his job as deputy planning director of Lowe Howard-Spink soon

after. And, while Flintham and McLeod only agreed to join a month ago,

it took them six months of on-off negotiations to reach the

decision.



The five have been meeting at several venues around London for

months.



As they planned the start-up, they gathered at each other’s houses, in

anonymous hotels or in out-of-the-way pubs. Even before the names of the

creative directors were announced, they were busy discussing everything

from new-business pitches to floors and doorhandles for the office.



Wall says: ’But it didn’t get real until we were on the front page of

Campaign.’ He shows me an all-staff memo from Pat Fallon, in which

Fallon declares himself ’ecstatic’ about the new creative directors and

says the five London partners will ’set a new standard of excellence in

what is already an extremely competitive world market. The heat is on.

Already.’



Dan Wieden identified similar pressures when Wieden & Kennedy set up in

London in April, and the agency has deliberately been low profile to

start with. It looks unlikely that Fallon will stay out of the headlines

for long, though - the agency is already pitching for business.



Senior says Pat Fallon is giving the five of them plenty of space to do

things their own way. ’He waits for me to call him and let him know

what’s happening’ he says. ’He wants the same things for us that we want

for ourselves.’



Fallon spent more than a year investigating expansion into the UK before

he appointed Senior and Wall. In the end, they went to Minneapolis and

pitched their ideas to Fallon. Their first chart insisted that they be

allowed permission to make mistakes. As a result, Senior says: ’They

bought into people with shared values, not into a business plan.’



In their search for staff, the five partners will also be looking for

like-minded people. In the US, for instance, Fallon employees are not

given a holiday allowance - instead, each individual is trusted to

decide how much time to take off work each year.



’Our interviews won’t be practical,’ confirms Green. ’It is all about

sorting out the philosophy. The people we hire will have to have the

stomach for it - we like the fact that we won’t be able to answer all

their questions.’



One element of its US parent’s philosophy that will be imported to

London is the principle that everyone who works there should be able to

take pride in the agency and in the creative work that comes out of it.

Fallon does not operate a soloist culture.



Nor is it too bogged down with a prescriptive approach to advertising -

no West Coast mantras have as yet found their way into the DNA of the

Minneapolis-based agency. There is no talk of hot-desking and no time

for fancy titles when there is advertising to be done. ’We are not about

the process - we are about the result,’ Wall comments.



This is just about the only concrete assertion that comes out of the

interview. The rest is excited banter that all five of them make up as

they go along, giving the impression that London’s most talked-about new

agency is coming to life before my eyes.



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