Campaign Direct: Profile Jeremy Pemberton - Prodigal son returns to below the line/The promise of new experiences coaxed Jeremy Pemberton into the IMP hot seat, Eleanor Trickett says

Anyone expecting to read that Jeremy Pemberton, a former executive creative director of D’Arcy and the new executive creative director of IMP, can be found quaking in fear under his desk, sporting nibbled fingernails, will be bitterly disappointed.

Anyone expecting to read that Jeremy Pemberton, a former executive

creative director of D’Arcy and the new executive creative director of

IMP, can be found quaking in fear under his desk, sporting nibbled

fingernails, will be bitterly disappointed.

’I’m completely relaxed about this job,’ he says. ’I have no qualms

whatsoever.’ I scratch out a number of planned questions and note his

beautifully manicured hands.

His serenity is impressive, especially as the interview takes place on

the Friday afternoon at the end of his first week in his new role. But

he can’t quite conceal the fact that his edges are slightly frayed as he

peers through the fug left by a clutch of young creatives, just

dispatched after meeting their new boss.

’It’s like the first day at school,’ he says. ’Some people in this

industry have been in 15 jobs by the time they get to my age. I’ve only

had about four - and I suppose I’ve never really had an overview of what

life is like outside.’ He pauses and then adds: ’I’ve been married for

33 years, too.’

Pemberton has to be the most-awarded, most-experienced creative director

in a UK direct marketing agency (and certainly the poshest). He knows

the MacManus group - which saved his agency, Yellowhammer, from

receivership in 1990 - like the back of his hand. Since 1990 he has been

the deputy, then executive, creative director and most recently (after a

short-lived retirement) the part-time European head of art.

He has fistfuls of awards, been the creative force behind Yellowhammer

and DMB&B for years and created the Lynx ’40 dumb animals’ D&AD gold

winner. As his predecessor, David Harris, says: ’Who’d have thought five

years ago that IMP would be led by someone of that calibre?’

That he is one of the best art directors and creative directors around

is indisputable. But for the past decade or so, Pemberton has been

settled in one of the world’s largest advertising agency groups, working

on clients such as Procter & Gamble and Mars. His appointment may only

have moved him up one floor in 123 Buckingham Palace Road, but he may as

well have gone to the moon.

’When we opened Yellowhammer in 1972, it was purely below the line,’ he

reminds me, keen to put paid to the mutterings of his lack of

qualifications for running a below-the-line creative department. ’It

wasn’t until the mid-80s that we demonstrated that we could do

above-the-line work as well.’

His insistence, though, that his time at Yellowhammer has furnished him

with the required skills for his new job is perhaps a little


As Harris says: ’The industry changed radically even during the four

years that I spent at IMP.’

Pemberton is certainly a little rusty. He gropes for terminology and is

visibly relieved when I tell him an anecdote about a below-the-line boss

even more senior than he is who recently said to a data planner: ’Ah. So

you work in the IT department, then.’

But as far as he is concerned, his lack of recent immersion in direct

marketing isn’t a problem. ’As long as the creative work is good, the

distinctions between the two areas are merely technical. The big

difference is that the work at an above-the-line agency is

campaign-based, and you know each year that x million pounds will be

spent on TV. Here, the work is more project-based. In a way, you’re only

as good as your last job.’

Despite his below-the-line evangelism, his proudest moment, he says, was

winning the D&AD gold for the Lynx campaign. I try to push him into

choosing a non-TV campaign to encourage the new troops, and I think he

actually says ’eek!’.

Pemberton finally comes up with a surprising effort: the Christmas card

he designed for Yellowhammer in 1974, which got into the D&AD


’I use it as an example, to show people that even the smallest brief can

get you into D&AD.’

Inspiring his creative department is something for which Pemberton is

renowned - a good thing, as IMP has been without a creative director for

six months. Harris prescribes that ’he needs to boost morale’.

As well as nurturing his slightly wounded department, he will carry out

a thorough fingernail inspection of the 11 creative teams. ’I won’t just

be looking at the work they’ve done here,’ he warns. ’I’ll be looking at

their entire books.’

He is renowned for honing the creative product and getting the most out

of his proteges. ’The creative department is dependent on having someone

who will root for them and raise the profile of creativity.’

John Townshend, the creative director of Rapier, worked for him at

Yellowhammer for four years and testifies: ’He taught me about the

importance of detail and how to polish. He’s a craftsman, but he is also

practical and he understands what clients need.’

Bumping into one of IMP’s directors on my way out, I decide to conduct

an exit poll. ’He’s great,’ the sample of one gushes. ’He’s already

worked on two pitches with us, and he really helped us. In fact, he’s

surprisingly practical ... for a creative.’

So what did Pemberton’s above-the-line cronies think of his slide into

segmentation and data? Not as surprised as his below-the-line ones were

when he joined DMB&B, apparently. ’From a small hotshop, I was suddenly

dealing with P&G and Mars. It was an enormous culture shock. The people

who found I was coming back to direct marketing thought - great!


They all saw that I had what I’d always wanted: a mix of

multi-disciplinary resource, a pioneering attitude towards the internet,

lots of design stuff and the chance to work on something different after

years of TV and press.’

He then stares into the middle distance for a while, and modestly

concludes: ’But maybe everyone’s just being nice.’



Butler & Gardner, studio junior


Omnific, designer, rising to senior art director


Yellowhammer, creative partner


DMB&B, deputy, then executive creative director


D’Arcy, Semi-retirement/part-time international head of art


IMP, executive creative director


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus