Claire Beale: Forget the positioning, it's talent that counts

By Claire Beale, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 31 May 2012 08:00AM

There's a beautiful symmetry to the birth of Joint this week, following so neatly the sale of Adam & Eve. As one agency bows out of the independent market (to become something bigger and even better, it's hoped), another jumps in.

Claire Beale: Forget the positioning, it's talent that counts

The two agencies' stories are already inextricably linked. When James Murphy, Ben Priest and David Golding resigned from Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R to launch A&E back in 2008, the agency promoted Richard Exon to chief executive and recruited Damon Collins as executive creative director to replace the departing management team. And when Exon and Collins themselves quit RKCR/Y&R last autumn to launch their own start-up, comparisons with A&E inevitably followed. So will Joint now step into the vacancy A&E has left in the line-up of provocative young agencies?

As well as a silly name that will start to seem perfectly sensible once we can associate it with some good work, Joint launches with a couple of points of difference. It intends to charge clients retainers only for high-end creative and strategic people, though admittedly it's possible to define too many executives in that way now. And the agency says it wants to be as collaborative as possible with other specialists so it can bring together bespoke teams tailored to a particular client's needs, so remaining flexible while being able to access a real breadth of talent.

But, to be honest, when I read what Collins and Exon had to say about their new agency (page 13), it all seemed a little pat and obvious, and a bit disappointing, considering this is surely going to be the most exciting start-up of the year. It's probably Campaign's fault, though, for creating a requirement for a new agency to have a positioning, a twist on convention, something new to say. Perhaps sometimes there isn't much to say beyond "we're great talents who want to do things our way without all the constraints of a big corporation weighing us down".

Really Exon and Collins don't need to say anything else right now. They're both brilliant and charismatic practitioners with a terrific pedigree and a lot of goodwill behind them. Talent like theirs doesn't require artful gilding. The advertising industry has seen far too many agencies start up with fine words and disruptive intentions, only to achieve mediocrity. Nothing much matters beyond the people who make up a new agency's DNA. Joint has excellent genes.

Talking of entrepreneurs, it looks like Sir Martin Sorrell is set for a showdown with shareholders at WPP's AGM on 13 June. On behalf of those shareholders, Sorrell has built WPP into the world's biggest marketing services company. As one of his rivals e-mailed me in his defence this week: "Love him or hate him, he's worth every penny."

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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