Claire Beale finds that Jon Wilkins’ creative style now has an
The last time that Jon Wilkins was dissected in the public spotlight,
his granny spat out her teeth in surprise. Mind you, he was wearing a
fetching pair of snakeskin trousers and being quizzed by Terry Wogan on
national TV about the joys of being voted an eligible bachelor.
Granny can rest assured that Campaign’s treatment of young Jon will
include few moments worthy of teeth spitting, and the snakeskin trousers
were sadly absent when we met.
Wilkins - let’s get it out of the way right now - is a hunky, funky kind
of guy, good looking, loves clubbing. But he’s no longer eligible, OK.
He’s giving up his ‘worse than Men Behaving Badly’ single life for a
with his girlfriend of several months. And now he’s just landed le big
job as head of creative communications at New PHD (Campaign, last week).
It’s not a job title that would sit comfortably with most media
specialists, nor look sensible on a business card beneath the name of
many media practitioners.
But Wilkins, who’s not one for conventional media strait-jackets
himself, has done rather a good job of late in positioning himself as
the next generation, with all the forward thinking that implies.
At 29 (30, you’ll be pleased to hear, is only a few months away),
Wilkins says he’s becoming more confident in his professional beliefs
and has his own vision of the communications future which he’s not
afraid to stand up and shout about. ‘Advertising agencies won’t exist in
20 years’ time,’ he happily told a clutch of new graduates who have just
pinned their careers to the advertising mast.
He’s successfully shaken off the dusty image which typifies media
researchers to outside eyes, and has neatly carved a niche which sits
somewhere between account and media planning. And he still manages to
rock and roll till the late early hours and arrive at his desk by 9am.
Wilkins’ growing reputation as a creative thinker who refuses to kiss
the feet of media convention, a media guy with the mind of a planner,
had Jonathan Durden (a partner at New PHD) flirting with him for months.
‘It’s very difficult to find someone to fit this sort of creative brief,
but we couldn’t really have done any better than get Jon,’ Durden
explains. ‘He’s got the qualitative research skills, he’s personable,
bright, an ideas man. And all the girls here are swooning.’
Wilkins, returning the compliment, claims there’s no other outfit he’d
leave his current home of BMP DDB for: ‘I’ve never met anyone who
believes in creative media more passionately than Jonathan, and that was
a major reason I was attracted to the job.’ He’s quick to stress that he
owes a real debt to BMP, though, where he’s been given the freedom to
explore commercial communications well beyond the conventional 30-second
Only a few months ago, BMP dreamed up a whistles-and-bells new job of
media strategy director for his talents. Well, there was a bit of a
brain drain at the agency; it had to hold on to the good media people it
had left. Now Wilkins is joining the exodus.
At New PHD, Wilkins explains, he’s got an open brief to look at
communications solutions from a new perspective. ‘It’s not just about
above-the-line creative advertising but also oblique solutions which
could be met by other companies in the Abbott Mead group [New PHD’s
He is the first outsider to join New PHD, the first person to have been
recruited to suit the New PHD style and philosophy. It’s a good fit.
Wilkins intends to have fun in the role, he loves his work and admits
that ‘I’m not one of those people who leave their personalities on the
coat-hook in the mornings’.
He is, instead, one of those annoying people who seems able to get on
with everybody. We’re talking genuine charm, and despite often being
held up as one of the (lamentably very few) good-looking men in the
industry, Wilkins appears to have not one jot of arrogance (fat men with
fat egos, take note). In fact, he gives me carte-blanche to rip the piss
out of him. He doesn’t mind. Which, of course, means that I won’t.
Paul Mukherjee, the head of press at the Network and a former colleague
of Wilkins, isn’t quite so restrained. Wilkins, he tells me, has a
problem with penile warts. He’s joking (I think), but in a more serious
vein adds: ‘Jonny is a lovely man, exceptionally bright and the only
enemies he has are the women he’s dumped.’
Mind you, there might be a few old timers who are sniffy about Wilkins’
appointment. And if the media stick-in-the-muds aren’t worried by guys
like him snapping at their heels, they ought to be.
The Wilkins file
1988 Granada Television, marketing and research executive
1990 MTV, senior marketing executive
1992 Walt Disney, senior marketing analyst
1993 BMP DDB, associate planning director
1996 New PHD, head of creative communications