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
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,
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
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
’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
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
The five have been meeting at several venues around London for
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.
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
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
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.