This is a controversial subject. Any discussion of "braininess" is
both emotive and elusive.
It is emotive because it approaches the nub of what differentiates
strong from weak in the advertising business. All great campaigns have
some sort of braininess at their roots. It is so emotive that none of
those interviewed for this article were prepared to have quotes
attributed to them.
Even more striking, though, is the elusive element, the extent to which
few can agree on what braininess actually means. It certainly goes
beyond academic polish. Einstein probably wouldn't have made a fantastic
adman and there is some suggestion that raw cleverness can be a distinct
disadvantage to a career in advertising. The road to the front pages of
Campaign is littered with purely brainy people who somehow got lost in
Too much University of Analysis and Theory, not enough of the old
University of Life.
What counts more in advertising is an all-round intelligence with a
pragmatic edge. It is the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff and
arrive succinctly at the root of the issue. The focus is people with a
proven track record for smartness who have quick, sharp minds. They are
intuitive and forward-thinking, but know how to be expedient. They have
their feet on the ground.
They have cleared themselves of the cant of advertising and think
thoroughly and differently. Their outlook is visionary.
And they have credibility. Our list has been compiled from a survey of
other people's perceptions rather than some sort of examination. Those
on it are there because they are valued for their braininess by
colleagues, clients, commentators and observers. They are role models
for the industry.
We have two lists. The first contains the established advertising gurus
whose influence has been impacting throughout the advertising world for
some time. The second is of the stars of the last decade or so who are
likely to have as broadly felt an influence in due course. All 20 are
still active on the UK advertising scene.
DAVID ABBOTT: Non-executive director, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw
The former creative force of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is famed as the
wordsmith with the magical touch. The sweetness and charm of his
demeanour disguises a brutality of purpose underneath. Never a creative
luvvy, he possesses the planner's instinct always to look from the point
of view of the consumer and the brand. One former colleague describes
him as "embodying all the talents across all of the disciplines combined
into one bloke". He creates sustainable campaigns that cut through the
morass of one-off ads.
NIGEL BOGLE: Chief executive officer, Bartle Bogle Hegarty
A mixture of integrity and brilliance, Bogle is noted for his lateral
way of thinking and natural instinct to look at things another way. "He
has a knack for deconstructing issues and coming up with pithy phrases
that get right to the heart of the idea," one colleague notes. Along
with the agency policy of no creative pitches and a non-network
international strategy, his legacy includes the financial transparency
which he championed for the industry.
SIMON BROADBENT: Director, BrandCon
A well-established guru, he has been credited with being "one of the few
figures who has significantly influenced advertising thinking over the
past three decades". He has written and edited numerous texts on
advertising that have become standard reading for planners, and was
instrumental in setting up the IPA Effectiveness Awards. He was the
industry's first scientist, replacing opinion with certainty. A pioneer
in econometric analysis and modelling.
LESLIE BUTTERFIELD: Chairman, Partners BDDH
Butterfield's contribution to the intellectual capital of the industry
has been immense and publications with his name on are legion. A pioneer
in the financial evaluation of brands, his approach is grounded in a
pragmatic appreciation of business. His tenacity combined with an
ethical sensitivity leads one colleague to liken him to the lawyer
Michael Mansfield: "Seeing him present is like being in the middle of a
TIM DELANEY: Chief executive, creative director, Leagas Delaney
The ultimate creative purist to whom compromise is an alien concept,
Delaney is a beacon of commitment to the power of the big idea. His
approach is highly instinctive and, for some, frustratingly dogmatic,
but he is an accomplished strategist and businessman. The attention to
detail and elegance of his work, and what he demands of others, position
him as the standard to which most creatives still aspire.
CHRIS POWELL: Chairman, BMP DDB
Described by Peter Mandelson as the "thinking man's advertising
executive", he orchestrated five election campaigns for the Labour Party
culminating in the landslide victory of 1997. Like many of the most
intelligent, his boredom threshold is low as his mind works so quickly
that he is usually beyond the solution before others have started to
understand the problem.
His stint as the president of the IPA set the agenda for the industry
that is still being followed today.
MAURICE SAATCHI: Partner, M&C Saatchi
Not many people start up an agency and figure out how to make it exceed
its wildest potential once. Even fewer do it twice, at Saatchi & Saatchi
and now M&C Saatchi. Despite this achievement, he has no arrogance, is
an exceptional listener and is willing to learn from anyone. He knows
the right questions to ask, cuts through the waffle and gets to the
answer. He is a voracious reader, which makes him very knowledgeable as
well as very intelligent.
JEREMY SINCLAIR: Partner, M&C Saatchi
Not one to be heard raising his voice, he has an aura of stillness
masking a mind that never stops motoring. He has a fascination for how
things work and how people will react to them. He accepts reality and
comes up with a better solution despite it. According to a colleague:
"He thinks deeper and differently better than most people. In a world
with no space and no time, he creates both."
JOHN WEBSTER: Executive creative director, BMP DDB
Advertising's greatest storyteller, Webster's focus at work has always
been just on the work rather than the frippery that surrounds the
business. As one industry observer puts it: "If every creative had been
like Webster, then researching advertising concepts would never have
started as an industry." His skill at making observations about life and
translating them into advertising that strikes a real emotional chord
has set standards that few have lived up to.
ROBIN WIGHT: Chairman, WCRS
The man with the famous bow-ties is foremostly a fount of passion and
energy. He possesses a seemingly endless supply of ideas of all shapes
and forms, delivered with an enthusiasm more reminiscent of an eager
schoolboy. He combines this with being an infectious motivator who knows
how to get the best out of the people around him. As one of his peers
comments: "Advertising needs people like Robin. He should definitely
stay out of politics."
THE 'YOUNG' PRETENDERS
AJAZ AHMED: Co-founder and chairman, AKQA
A surviving dotcom "millionaire", Ahmed demands originality from
everyone he works with, including himself, and never justifies a bad
idea. His mind moves in multiple directions simultaneously but he is
able to harness his thoughts, turning them into practical ideas. His
vivid imagination adapts to any timescale and is as strong contemplating
the long term as the short term. There is a confidence about him, partly
born of a naturally strong intellect and partly by the enormous success
he has enjoyed.
TIM BROADBENT: Executive planning director, Bates UK
A businessman more than a strategic theorist, one colleague credits
Broadbent with "being the only planner I know who really believes in and
understands the measuring of advertising". His approach is not
touchy-feely but is instead anchored firmly in the concrete and rational
and he spends extra time digging deeper when others would jump to
conclusions. He has the ability to distill complexity in a way that
inspires creatives to produce work that delivers tangible results.
SIMON CLEMMOW: Founder, Clemmow Hornby Inge
Very much a "creatives' planner", Clemmow is equally at home as the
grand strategist analysing complex business issues with clients as he is
rolling his sleeves up and getting involved with the details of the ads
on the creative floor. He manages to bring order out of chaos and has a
knack for getting straight to the heart of an issue when confronted by
endless opinions and information. Spots bullshit at a hundred paces.
GARY DUCKWORTH: Chairman, Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters
Gary Duckworth is widely regarded as a considered thinker who takes his
time to deliver structured, precise and passionate points of view. A
shunner of marketing jargon, Duckworth's language is personal, human and
incisive. According to one colleague: "His brain is like an ultra
absorbent socio-cultural sponge. You wouldn't believe he could watch as
much TV as he does and still make it into work every day." He is
insatiably inquisitive and also has an intuitive understanding of
people, however diverse.
STEVE HENRY: Founder and creative director, HHCL & Partners
The driving intellectual force behind HHCL's mission to seek out the
different, Henry's way of thinking and working has seen more than a few
moulds being broken in the last decade. Despite this approach, he
remains measured and untemperamental. There is a subversive, acute sense
of irony in his humour, and his use of language is eloquent and
incisive. Very quick-witted, he is advertising's answer to Stephen
RICHARD HYTNER: Chairman and chief executive officer, Publicis
Although highly driven and ambitious, he is marked out by an uncommon
decency that makes him a natural manager of people. He is sensitive to
those around him and is an accomplished listener who encourages open,
confident debate. His is a thoughtful intelligence that gets the best
out of those around him. His time at the Henley Centre has given him
NIGEL JONES: Chief executive, Claydon Heeley Jones Mason
A chess player of nigh on professional standing, the easy option for him
would have been to remain the head of planning at BMP. He saw the future
lying beyond traditional advertising and chose instead to move into the
field of through the line with his own venture. Ruthlessly logical, he
reduces complexity into the clearest, simplest terms.
GEORGE MICHAELIDES: Managing partner, Michaelides & Bednash
Viewing media as culture rather than just numbers, he was the first to
blend the disciplines of account planning and media in a standalone
company. He is prepared to challenge anything or anybody, but always in
a clear and thoughtful manner. He is fanatical about detail and,
according to one colleague: "He actively enjoys analysis and getting
right under the skin of ideas." Good at seeing the world
MT RAINEY: Joint CEO, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
The first thinker to put a value on ideas per se, Rainey is a natural
contrarian, happiest when going against the popular grain. She avoids
pat answers and the ruts of lazy thinking and is not a dispenser of
wisdom on tap. Her thoughts are always done to order and are usually at
their best when produced under pressure. She is not detached but always
fully immersed and focused on the task in hand.
ROBERT SAVILLE: Creative partner, Mother
He took the unusual route to the creative director's chair by starting
his career as an account handler, a background that has made him a very
strong all-rounder. He possesses a restless mind and modern outlook and
has successfully delivered what was promised in the founding of Mother,
which continues to function perfectly well without account management.