The Fantasy Agency
Campaign, Friday, 08 May 2009 12:00AM
They say recession is a good time to start an agency. So we spent a pleasant afternoon picking our top team. Then we asked some industry chiefs what their fantasies were.
If you haven't already actually done it, it's pretty much guaranteed that you've thought about it. And even if you have launched your own agency, you've probably spent many idle moments wondering who else you might have chosen as your core team. All the best ad people have their fantasy agencies tucked away in a drawer somewhere.
Here's Campaign's own fantasy agency, with absolutely no respect to the practicalities. Really, can you imagine the salary bill needed to pay for this lot, let alone the headaches of ego-management. Sadly, we've had to leave too many greats off. But that's business.
Over the page, some adlanders pick their own fantasy agency partners, but who would you choose?
Why wouldn't you choose Maurice Saatchi? After all, he has launched not one, but two of the UK's biggest agencies of the past 30 years, and the name, the most famous in modern advertising, opens so many doors. However, the name Peter Mead doesn't come without benefits, and with the Abbott Mead Vickers founder, you get an almost unchallenged business nous and experience within the industry - still very much part of the game. But, if it's creative energy and zeal you're looking for, along with industry and client respect, you may want to look to Robin Wight. Still as energetic, charismatic and flamboyant as when he launched WCRS 30 years ago.
No agency can work these days without a digital element, and who better than Sir Tim Berners-Lee - surely no-one understands the internet like the man who invented it. Although, the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs must be pushing him a close second. So important to his company that news of his recent illness caused its share price to plummet, the man with the Midas touch for design would be an incomparable asset to any creative business. However, for sheer creative dynamism and a truly eccentric view of life and business, you may feel that Peter Saville can bring the magic the agency needs. And if not, you can listen to stories about Factory Records.
For the choice of executive creative director, you have the populist, the renegade and the knight. Trevor Beattie, one of the few household names from adland, has an almost magical connection with the general public and is a truly inspirational writer. Sir John Hegarty will, put simply, give the agency an immediate legendary status. His stature, gravitas and respect is second-to-none. Robert Saville, while just as creative as Beattie and Hegarty, will bring a wonderfully unconventional slant to your business, as well as being the ultimate talent magnet.
It might have been while since any of these three filled the managing director role, but who wouldn't want them as the heartbeat of the agency? Farah Ramzan Golant is a fearsome manager with intelligence and determination in equal measure that she puts into everything she does. Much like Helen Calcraft, the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree, really, does it? It's no coincidence that there are so many AMVers past and present in this list. Confident and capable, she brings power and assuredness to any agency. Robert Senior is a different proposition (in more ways than one). Experienced, determined and positively dripping ambition.
Andrew McGuinness could easily have wilted in the enormous shadow of Trevor Beattie but his grit, determination and business savvy have seen him move towards the sun in the past three years. He's likeable, trustworthy and capable, just like Tom Knox - who has skilfully built a great agency around the premise of good, solid account management. Since rising through the ranks at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, James Murphy has rarely put a foot wrong. It's a testament to his account-handling skill that almost every RKCR client was initially rumoured to be considering his new agency, Adam & Eve.
Jeremy Bullmore is about as close as you get to an advertising legend. Everyone's favourite agony uncle, he also has an entire lifetime of advertising experience to offer the young bucks. Sir Frank Lowe also has experience and advice to offer - it just might be slightly different from other people's. Erratic, eccentric and energetic, all watchwords of the man whose name still stands alone on a global network and who, after all this, still had the drive to do it all again. John Bartle probably goes without saying - an immense character, a true icon of advertising as a co-founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty. But look what he also did for Dare and i-level if you need any reason why he should be in a fantasy start-up.
With Johnny Hornby as your chief executive, not only are you guaranteed at least five clients as soon as your doors open, but you get the foremost adman of his year. And he knows how to party. Moray MacLennan's smart suits and ultra-smooth style are only a part of his arsenal and are used cleverly to offset and almost hide a diamond-sharp business brain and Scottish austerity that gets results - probably through fear, but very effectively. However, if experience, respect and talent are required, Cilla Snowball was moulded by the best in the business and brings them all together into a formidable operator.
Sue Unerman is one of the architects of the "modern" media agency and her strategic talents have helped MediaCom become the biggest in the UK. Her approach to media planning is passionate and she never resorts to cliche. Characteristics shared by Phil Georgiadis. His tenacity and attention to detail are well known, and, despite years in the industry, he still displays an admirable enthusiasm for media. Ivan Pollard is the idiosyncratic genius of the media team - the player to bring others into the game through his creative talent. His unconventional approach does detract from his focus and capacity for hard work.
Quite possibly the most admired, feared and powerful man in advertising, Sir Martin Sorrell would add a truly global reputation and a sense of invincibility. However, if you're looking for ultra-smooth classic account man moves (all wrapped up in a very expensive suit and Ferrari), then you need Michael Baulk, the silent B in AMV. Nigel Bogle, or Nige to his friends, is still the lifeblood of BBH and doesn't ever look like quitting. This knowledge, experience and zeal would be invaluable at the head of a start-up.
EXECUTIVE PLANNING DIRECTOR
Despite having been on the periphery of the ad business for a few years, MT Rainey could still be the jewel in any start-up crown. Laurence Green is one of the most respected planners in the business (even for just putting up with Robert Senior for years) and has easily handled his chairmanship at Fallon, showing that he would be an invaluable business-mind as well as a planner. Charles Vallance, however, is a completely different offering - a Yorkshire native with a huge IQ and an almost instinctive feel for planning, he inspires and commands respect in equal measure. Just don't play him at Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble.
Anyone who can sell their agency for millions of pounds at the age of 12, or whatever age Mark Cridge was, would be a huge asset. If you prefer your digital talent a little more off-the-wall than the serious Scotsman, then Simon Waterfall would be the ideal choice. Very talented and more than a little strange. Charlie Dobres, the i-level founder, is every bit as talented. An expert on his subject, he's also famous for his ability to spot a business opportunity.
- SARAH GOLD'S FANTASY AGENCY
I'm not going to write a business plan here. Rather, as my creative guru suggests, I'm going to write a press release.
The creative supremo Bogusky teams up with Rainey, Parish and Gold to create a new UK shop.
The agency has started with a simple mission - to turn brands and their communications into news stories. Not necessarily national news stories read by Moira Stuart, but more intimate news stories that live among the brands' key audiences - in their schools, on their blogs, in their real and online communities. News stories that are shaped and shared, revered or reviled, but are rarely ignored by the people that matter most.
The agency will charge clients not just a base idea fee, but a scaleable fee that reflects the volume of online and offline column inches generated by the ideas (because I'm not starting a fantasy vanity project here, believe me).
The agency will specialise in all media, using whatever is best to start the news stories off. It will be staffed with a mix of creative talents, including journalists and PR specialists, skilled in spotting the story in an idea.
The agency will open its doors to any clients that would like their brands to be talked about, interacted with and jointly developed by their target audiences. It will be called Good as Gold (a way better name than Adam & Eve).
CREATIVE PARTNER: MR ALEX BOGUSKY
Alex is the most inspirational creative working in the ad world at the moment. He hasn't just brought his agency up to speed on new technology, he's made it a top-level competitor in the interactive agency world. I love the way Alex works. He looks for one simple thing - "to find a really leveragable idea, that lives in PR". He doesn't want his teams to come to him with scripts, posters, concepts or even simple ad ideas. He wants them to come to him with a press release. That, for me, is true integrated thinking, evaluating ideas based foremost upon their news-worthiness. Get it right and the idea spreads, using whatever media is right. I also love his dedication to experimentation, his West Coast accent and his mane of hair. Above all, he's a brilliant ideas man with an unbelievable ability to make things happen. Alex, you're in.
STRATEGY PARTNER: MS MT RAINEY
I need another girl. But I need a rather brilliant planner too and MT is rather brilliant. She's a dab hand at all the usual planning skills: reductive thinking, rhetorical selling, research manipulation and business insight. But MT is also the queen of online communities, knowing better than most how to harness the power of the people. The future's bright for any agency that can unite the power of a great idea with the new forms of communicating and sharing it. What's more, MT is hugely well-connected, understands the importance of a sharp wardrobe, has worked well with Americans like Mr Bogusky and wouldn't take any nonsense from Parish. MT, I want you, you heard it here from the horsesmouth.co.uk.
MANAGING PARTNER: MR STEPHEN PARISH
Steve is exactly the sort of person anyone starting an agency should want with them. He's hard-working, great with clients, is a legendary entertainer and, above all, is a top-drawer businessman. This might be a fantasy agency, but let's get real for a minute, delivery is everything. Great ideas are worthless unless they get made and Steve knows better than most how to make things happen, and how to make money making things happen. He's honest, decent, clever and creative. I've worked with him for years and know we'd be a great team. Mr Parish, let's do it (not really, Johnny).
- TIM LINDSAY'S FANTASY AGENCY
At this point, I can hear my youthful colleagues thinking "diplodocus". But here's the thing. Wisdom, creative genius and the ability to lead are essential ingredients in any era. Disciplines and capabilities are easy to acquire. The key is with what degree of passion, skill and commitment the agency delivers what its clients need.
It takes an enormous act of will to maintain a genuinely different culture and way of working. And the only way to guarantee it is to ensure that our founders stay dedicated to and actively engaged on all our clients' business.
Our USP would be that we would only ever have 12 of them - the maximum number with which the founding group can be meaningfully involved (do the maths).
At the point where a 13th client insisted on us taking their account, we would spin off our second tier of management into their own start-up (not a bad little line-up actually: young Nigel Bogle, Juan Cabral and MT Rainey), retaining a modest 49 per cent of the equity and delivering excellent margins through the centralisation of back office and other services. Then again with the 25th client. And so on.
Yes, I know that Springer & Jacoby did a similar thing in Hamburg. But I wrote the plan first during a rather tedious Young & Rubicam conference in San Antonio in 1992 (ask Jerry Judge if you don't believe me) and it'll work - for someone.
He exudes sagacity. In his pipe-smoking days, he didn't even have to speak, just puff. One of the greatest planners of all time, he is an inspiration to clients, a sure-fire pitch-winner and a magician with numbers, data and research. He is calm, considered and has the dampest shoulders in advertising (essential to soothing the stresses of our agency's exponential growth). He is as far-sighted about our industry as anyone I know - witness his involvement with Dare and i-level. The definitive thinker.
By common consent of the people who worked with him, he's the greatest creative talent to have adorned our business. One of the very few people in advertising to be called a true genius, he created numberless brilliant campaigns that appealed to the length and breadth of the UK population and won hatfuls of awards - the true test. His best work was, of course, in TV - the dominant medium of his era. Would he have been able to turn his hand to today's demands? He was passionate about popular culture. Of course he would. The definitive creative.
That rare thing in a male-dominated world; a female agency principal, she was unique in the advertising scene of 70s New York. Beautiful, brave and passionate, she was loved and feared in equal measure. Fiercely proud of her agency, and her people, fun to be with, mercurial, illogical and occasionally maddening, she was someone who others just wanted to be with - not a bad quality in an agency leader. Most of all, she made things happen. The definitive rainmaker.
- MARK CRAZE'S FANTASY AGENCY
This particular fantasy of mine is built on the agency's proven ability to entertain and embrace consumers like no other agency has done before, and move them to market-making action, time after time. A culture of passion, obsession and a desire to break the mould would pump through the veins of this agency, 2D4 (To Die For).
Our board meetings would be fascinating, but kept to a minimum.
For international corporations, the proposition is simply this: untouchable global creative excellence at your fingertips, transforming your business on the world stage. Oh, and we could probably get you a Tweet from Barack Obama to show your children.
The once-in-a lifetime challenge for me as chief commercial officer would be to ensure that our creative power is unleashed for global clients' benefit to build their businesses, while building ours.
A start-up must get off to an upbeat start. And having a world leader founder client is key to this. I think 2D4 could land one without a pitch. If we do have to pitch, we would probably put the fear of God into rival agencies ... and into some clients too!
STEVEN SPIELBERG, CREATIVE GENIUS OFFICER
I trod the media agency path through the advertising jungle to reach the small clearing that is the chief executive's office. But no delusion here: media isn't the lifeblood of brilliant advertising; creative excellence is. So for life-affirming, attention-grabbing, culture-spanning creative genius, I've drafted in the director, producer, writer and billionaire Steven Spielberg. He may not have a D&AD Pencil alongside the three Oscars on one of his mantelpieces, but I can't see him being short of ideas to get punters engaging with brands, can you? His experience setting up (and selling!) DreamWorks is an added bonus to my agency.
Time magazine voted him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, which will at least give procurement departments something quantifiable to work with.
JONATHAN IVE, CONSUMER CHANGE OFFICER
My agency needs someone who understands the modern consumer so intimately it's almost indecent. The man I want is Jonathan Ive, the man who gave us uber-cool icons such as the iMac, MacBook, iPod and iPhone. How PC is that! This guy not only meets consumer demand, but has proved time and again he can predict it and dictate it - globally.
But it's not his design skills I want, so much as his commercial ability to spot and monetise what the world wants to do next. Come to think of it, he could probably turn his hand to a few minimalist ads of his own if need be, if Steven was tied up doing a pack-shot or something.
JOE ROSPARS, COMMUNICATIONS CHANNEL OFFICER
Joe Rospars ran Barack Obama's breathtakingly successful digital and social media campaign last year. This work must be worth at least a commendation in the international digital section of the Campaign Big Awards for the results achieved alone. His ability to harness digital and social media to shift behaviour is proven ... and he could show me how to use Twitter. And if he needs a steer on more traditional media, I have some form in that department.
- JONATHAN BURLEY'S FANTASY AGENCY
Assuming that Burley, Bolton, Lawson, Hedger(c) is a wee bit against the spirit of the game, then my three partners to form the glittering line-up of BWJF (always start with the B, as my favourite successful agencies have empirically proven) are John Webster, Steve Jobs and Stephen Fry.
Me, John and the two Steves argued like monkeys about the business plan (Fry wanted to go primarily for the pink pound, but Jobsy got the right arse about that, claiming that we were far more mainstream), but we reckon we've come up with a cracker of a positioning.
Basically, BWJF is The People's Digital Agency. In the digital marketplace, we have a bit of a headstart with Jobs knowing a bit about the form. But the operative word in the first sentence of this paragraph is "people". Webster's popular touch, along with Fry's "bridging" skill-set which marries a deep understanding of the tech with an ability to articulate that understanding to real people, means that we can create digital strategies and content that are easily and instantly accessible by all.
There is an agency out there (sorry, I rather rudely can't remember which one it is) that charmingly positions itself as "analogue, with a digital backbone". Very nice. But we are the antithesis of that, we're a digital agency with an analogue backbone, and proud of it. Not just digital advertising and communications for the fashionable youth brands, but modern marcoms for the mainstream.
I am giddily excited about the reach and ambition of BWJF. But there is one small but important flaw in the whole plan. I am 100 per cent superfluous to the success of the business. Bugger. WJF it is, then.
Even though his surname means that the poor receptionist at our humble start-up would struggle every time they had to answer the phone with the full agency name ("Good morning; Burley, Webster, Jobs & Fry ..." - at the very least, it sounds faintly unappetising), the man is a pretty obvious choice. Not just because of his involvement with Pixar, which means I'd get to see their cartoons before anyone else, but his passion and creative entrepreneurialism, combined with his uncanny ability to sell stuff that real people actually want, would make him a kind of super-planner/account handler/creative/digital hybrid. With a beard. Who can fix my iPhone when it fucks up. Brilliant.
I never had the honour of working with the man, but his ads were a huge part of my formative years, long before I even realised that there was such a thing as an overpaid job in advertising and that the ads didn't just appear magically on the telly. The Smash Martians, Honey Monster, Arkwright, both the Hofmeister and Cresta bears ... There never has been a creative with a more imaginatively popular touch, and without him there would be no Orange Tango men and drumming gorillas. Add to this his legendary good grace and generosity, not to mention the ferocious intelligence behind such work as The Guardian's "points of view", and he would do me just fine as my founding creative partner, thank you.
Seriously. Think about it. He'd be quite handy to beautifully present Webster's scripts during pitches, which means I'd no longer have to rely on my three stock "comedy" voices to perform an idea. His ability as a comic writer would add shine to all of our product, from ten-second retail radio ads to the odd Private View. He could even record our VOs for free. Plus, he'd get on terribly well with Steve Jobs (even if me, Steve and John would all have to tiptoe around him occasionally during his bouts of melancholy). But perhaps most importantly, he is an incredibly articulate, persuasive and intelligent man who never patronises or underestimates his audience. Is there a better description of the perfect adman?
- DAMON COLLINS' FANTASY AGENCY
My aim: to create the world's best creative company. The ad agency of the future. To attract the world's best talent by working with the world's best clients. And vice versa.
If I believe one thing about starting a business, it is that, to avoid insanity, depression or the risk of manslaughter, you need to like, trust and respect the people you go into business with. Which is why I picked Richard. Rich is the opposite of an adwanker. He spent his formative years at the best agency I never worked at, Bartle Bogle Hegarty. He's been head of account management, head of new business, a managing director and a chief executive. There are few problems he hasn't come across and fewer he hasn't helped solve.
At a time when every ad has been done, the key to creating engaging and effective advertising solutions lies not in the discovery of the latest production technique, but in a deep understanding of the human condition. So we need an expert in consumer insight. My initial idea, this being a fantasy agency and all, was to enlist the help of God. But I realised that was just silly. I mean, there's no way he'd have the time. And anyway, I'm not sure I could trust him. He could get all political and go for a power grab. So I decided on an old friend I worked with during my time on Boots, the anthropologist Desmond Morris.
Any creative business that launches without "digital at its heart" is bonkers. We need a "digital guru" and who better than Steve Wozniak? I saw him give a lecture last year and he seemed very genuine. While he might have "a face for online", there was no doubting he was the techno-nerd hero of the Apple success story.
RICHARD EXON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, RAINEY KELLY CAMPBELL ROALFE/Y&R
I didn't have to look too far to find my first business partner. I sit next to him every day. Richard Exon was the main reason I joined RKCR and a more all-round brilliant account man I have not met. I say account man; he is actually one of the best planners I have worked with, intuitively isolating the truth of a brand and swiftly defining the problem that needs solving. I say planner; he frequently, and oh so modestly, lobs the odd gem into a creative review that ends up finding its way on to script paper.
DESMOND MORRIS, AUTHOR, BROADCASTER, ARTIST, ZOOLOGIST ETC ETC
There's bugger all this man doesn't know about human beings; what we want, what we need, why we do the things we do, our patterns of reproductive behaviour (could come in useful at Christmas parties). A strategic boon, surely. And another truly nice chap to add to the collection. The only problem I can foresee is getting him to focus. He writes a book a year, sometimes more. And when he writes, he "goes nocturnal", sleeping during the day and labouring at night.
STEVE WOZNIAK, COMPUTER SCIENTIST, CO-FOUNDER, APPLE INC
Will he impress prospective clients with his sparkling banter? Perhaps not. But an obsession with perfecting the seemingly perfect will ensure our business creates the next mind-blowingly, arse-wipingly incredible piece of world-astounding technology that makes us rich within weeks. And having the bloke in the building who actually invented the PC means we can hopefully save a bit on IT support.
- PHIL GEORGIADIS' FANTASY AGENCY
Digi-logical will be a new agency to tackle digital media with brilliant ideas borne from ruthlessly simple big thinking, powerfully negotiated and seamlessly executed - ideas born in the digital space but nurtured anywhere and everywhere relevant to the audience and the proposition.
It will be a full-service offering but with no creative partner. Too much responsibility for one person - creativity will be at the heart of the agency, not in the hands of a department.
We will be global from day one. We will judge success by how many rules we break while delivering daily to our clients and monthly to our mortgages.
We will tap into a broad and diverse pool of creative talent chosen each time to deliver to the needs of the client.
We will only take business where we can negotiate the deal with the media owner. It is too important to be left to a volume-driven "intermediary". We will happily work alongside the client's other agency partners. We will only fail if we fail to be logical. Digitally. Digi-logical.
To do this, I need a big brain, a brazen leader (with a big brain) and a brutal organiser (also with a big brain).
THE BIG BRAIN
Richard Storey, chief strategy officer, M&C Saatchi
A serial winner of planning and effectiveness awards, Richard is my chosen big brain because every time I have worked with him on something, we've had a measure of success. He listens and then offers brutally simple solutions or insights. Not just strategy, though. His words tease, suggesting a possible creative solution but stopping short of delivering one. His charts are masterful ... few words and a simple and persuasive logic. He knows enough about media but not too much that he would undermine me. Well, not for a little while.
THE BRAZEN LEADER
Andrew Robertson, chief executive, BBDO Worldwide
Apologies to the other contenders (most notably Nick Brien and Christine Walker) but they will understand my choice. Andrew is an annoyingly capable talent who has what all great leaders in our business have - restlessness. It's a while since we worked together. It was obvious that he would conquer the world with an intuitive ability to inspire clients and staff and the right blend of seriousness and humour. And up against time with Richard away he would happily create the strategy, present it and follow up and nail the terms of business. He also has global experience and he'll certainly have a strong view on the new "model".
THE BRUTAL ORGANISER
Simon Davis, managing director, Walker Media
Simon joined Walker Media from the dark side of media sales (CNBC International in New York) and had never worked in a media agency. He has proved that this is no barrier to performance in an agency. He's an enquiring mind with a steely determination to get the job done, which gets you most of the way; past hands-on experience is not the key but an appreciation and understanding of the past is. Simon will be front-of-house with the media owners. He will challenge them to deliver more. He has great presence with clients as well as strong commercial sensitivities. How else do you think I have survived without Christine?
This article was first published on Campaign
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