Media Perspective: The last of the old guard moves on in a makeover for Carat

It was with some incredulity that I noticed the local betting shop had undergone a makeover. Gone was the old Stanley Racing logo, replaced by the new brand Stanley Bet in fresh green-and-white paint.

Probably a good move, but the old Stanley logo was an undoubted 70s classic.

So much so that the violent PlayStation game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas pays homage, with its "Inside Track" betting shop carrying a very similar logo (as well as offering nags with "amusing" names such as Yoghurt Cannon and Spam Javelin).

The old Carat brand was also a classic. Rough, tough and dangerous to know, Carat (born out of the old TMD) had the reputation of being the most aggressive agency in town (as well as one of the best).

Whether the brand perception ever matched the reality is another question, but when Carat's parent, Aegis, hired Nigel Sharrocks from Warner Brothers last year, you sensed that part of his brief was to modernise the agency.

Sharrocks replaced Mark Craze, one corner of the Carat UK "old school" triangle completed by the former chairman, Ray Kelly, and the managing director, Colin Mills. Kelly left before Craze and this week we learned that the last of the three, Mills, has also departed.

Mills steps down after 11 years at the agency, six as managing director.

The announcement came as no surprise to Campaign. We'd heard strong rumours last autumn (hotly denied by Mills and Sharrocks in the midst of the agency's pitches for the Diageo and Unilever accounts) that Mills had resigned.

Sharrocks admits that Mills resigned "some time ago" but, despite the personality differences between Mills and the more affable Sharrocks, there doesn't seem to have been a falling-out between them (Sharrocks has even offered Mills a role alongside him at Aegis that Mills is "mulling over").

Sharrocks says that he values the hard work Mills put in to leave a successful and diversified agency. However, others take the view that Mills can be intractable and difficult to manage when not motivated and, judging by his comments on leaving (looking for the usual "exciting new challenge"), he's not motivated by the Carat job any longer.

It's doubtful whether Carat will miss Mills in the long term. He's inspired many he has worked with, but his direct approach (some describe it as rude) isn't to everybody's taste. He built strong client relationships (notably with British Gas) and led an agency that wasn't used to losing (retaining Diageo against the odds last year was just the latest example of its fighting spirit). But with that spirit now ingrained in the Carat culture and with Sharrocks set to impose his own vision, it seems to benefit everybody that Mills, a keen fisherman, is off for a spell by the river.

Topics