NEWSMAKERS/JAY POND-JONES AND GRAHAM HINTON: Old friends aim to put Dorlands back on the map - The creative director and chairman’s shared vision is key, John Tylee reports

It’s impossible to listen to Jay Pond-Jones, the Bates Dorland executive creative director-in-waiting, without an overwhelming feeling of deja vu. ’It’s all here,’ he says of his new agency. ’It just needs some creative fire-power.’

It’s impossible to listen to Jay Pond-Jones, the Bates Dorland

executive creative director-in-waiting, without an overwhelming feeling

of deja vu. ’It’s all here,’ he says of his new agency. ’It just needs

some creative fire-power.’



Rewind the tape ten years and Andrew Cracknell, now chairman of Ammirati

Puris Lintas, would have been heard expressing similar sentiments. ’A

solid agency ... lots of good strategic thinkers ... just needs some

creativity to match ... can’t be done overnight, of course ... takes

time.’



History proved Cracknell right and, even if some of his legacy was

squandered through managerial decisions that were more expedient than

forward-thinking, the fact remains that he helped give Dorlands an

all-too-brief taste of how good an agency it could be.



Now Dorlands wants it all again. ’Cracknell changed the agency by

raising the expectations of its people and its clients,’ Graham Hinton,

the Dorlands chairman, declares.



’Once you’ve experienced that, there’s no going back.’



The high expectations of Pond-Jones are exacerbated by the turbulent

events of recent years when prolonged and public management upheavals

made the agency self-obsessed and caused its new-business engine to

stall.



If Pond-Jones is intimidated by what has been staked on him he betrays

no sign of it. On the contrary, he gives the impression that his career

so far has been a preparation for what awaits him. ’I passed the point

ten years ago when I knew I could face any challenge without being

scared.’



He’ll certainly need to draw deeply on his reserves of self-confidence,

for these are testing times for the agency. Unable to accommodate the

reforming zeal of its former group chief executive, Paul Twivy, or what

was seen as the creative Puritanism of Pond-Jones’s predecessor, Tim

Ashton, Dorlands knows what it isn’t. Now it has to reassert what it

is.



Hinton’s hope is that Pond-Jones will round off a management team in

tune with the agency’s culture. A managerial front line once described

by one of its members as ’the most dysfunctional I’ve ever seen’ has

given way to a new team combining old Dorlands hands, notably John Ward,

the vice-chairman, and John Stubbings, the chief executive, and newer

blood.



’We needed a group of people who get on with each other and share the

same ambition and one into which Jay can fit,’ Hinton says. For Hinton,

now 20 months into the job, Pond-Jones’s hiring and the other senior

changes are the clearest manifestation yet of his determination to draw

a line under the Twivy era and put the agency at ease with itself

again.



Getting Dorlands to do what it does best is the priority. In Hinton’s

view that means populist, big-brand advertising that delivers commercial

results on the back of outstanding creativity.



Pond-Jones’s brief will be to build on Dorlands’ existing creative

foundations rather than re-dig them. ’The great thing about our current

reel is that it contains great campaigns,’ Hinton says. ’But I want us

to win awards and we’ve not reached that standard yet.’



The big question is whether in Pond-Jones, a lean-limbed aesthete who

has turned introspection into an art form, Hinton has swapped Ashton for

a variant of him. What’s different this time is that Hinton has bonded

with Pond-Jones in a way he never did with Ashton. The link began 13

years ago when both were at D’Arcy McManus Masius and was strengthened

by working through the 1985 merger with Benton & Bowles. Ashton too was

a contemporary of Hinton at DMB&B but never shared his wavelength. His

perceived need for approbation within the creative village was at odds

with his chairman’s pragmatism.



Pond-Jones’s first task will be to figure out what can be changed and

when it’s smarter not to interfere, something Ashton found

difficult.



’Tim was delivering a style but there was too much stuff we couldn’t

understand,’ a senior executive says.



For his part, Ashton claims Pond-Jones can only succeed if Hinton is

prepared to find time for him in a schedule that not only includes

running an agency shortly to play a pivotal role in an independent Bates

global network but the presidency of the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising.



’Agency morale is low,’ he warns. ’Jay will find it difficult if he

doesn’t get Graham’s time and support.’



Ironically, the Bates network’s shortage of global business may work in

Pond-Jones’s favour. Dorlands spends little time adapting work

originated elsewhere but boasts an impressive array of big domestic

accounts free of international creative rule books. At the same time,

some significant recent wins - including pan-European assignments from

Energizer batteries and the pounds 8 million UK relaunch of Imperial

Leather - may be a precursor of better times.



Knowing when to interfere and when to hold back may be equally important

in Pond-Jones’s dealings with his department’s long-serving senior

creatives - Paul Walter, Chips Hardy, Jon Canning and Dominick

Lynch-Robinson - who have traditionally controlled some of the agency’s

most important business.



Cracknell believes Dorlands may have found the creative best able to

interpret its collective personality. ’What the agency has never needed

is the spectacular quick fix,’ he says. ’What it does need is hard and

diligent work by senior people and it strikes me that Pond-Jones has the

right combination of application and high creative standards.’



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