Close-Up: Are Dare's joint ECDs a match made in heaven?

Flo Heiss and Danny Brooke-Taylor discuss their new-look creative department following the merger of Dare and MCBD.

- So, what will the new agency model be able to offer?

FH: Our aim is to put creative thinking at the very heart of the agency. So far, so predictable, you might say, but what is new is the open-mindedness in which we are going to approach every brief. John Bartle (Dare's non-executive director) has a very good way of putting it - he calls it Creative Neutrality. Of course, I have immediately stolen this and claimed it as my own. This approach puts the idea first and the place to put it second. We believe not everything needs a Facebook application or a TV ad.

DBT: Flo and myself have been heavily inspired by the opening titles to the 70s television series The Six Million Dollar Man.

Steve Austin was a normal human being until technology gave him the capability to be truly bionic.

If we can help our clients fuse human truths with the latest technology, then anything is possible.

I'm keen to launch a Bionic Flo Heiss action figure with detachable magic goatee before Christmas.

- What changes will you be looking to make to the creative department following the merger?

DBT: We are all going to sit together. All 85 of us. It's going to be a bit weird for us creatives from MCBD, as we have been used to our own offices. However, we can only truly understand new skills and be inspired by our new friends' ideas if we sit in each other's worlds. We have to share everything. Our ideas, our experiences, our farts.

How will the creative partnership work? Do joint executive creative directors ever work?

FH: Oh, yes. That's the plan. Danny and I, in a room (or one of our brand-new "shiny" sheds that no-one likes) with a blank piece of paper scratching heads and beards. We've been working together for quite some time pre-merger already so, yes, we will continue that.

DBT: This isn't some awkward corporate cut-and-shut thingy. We want to get our hands dirty.

- How will you split the work and how is it decided who gets what brief?

FH: Pistols at dawn.

DBT: We are going to foster an environment where the creative opportunities are enjoyed across the whole department. When we allocate briefs, we are going to apply a "smart/stupid" system where two teams with very different skills will be briefed.

For example, if a brief for a TV commercial comes in, the "smart" choice would be to give it to a team with loads of TV experience. Obviously.

And probably 90 per cent of the time, they will still be the ones to crack it.

But we are also going to make a "stupid" decision and give it to the team who usually develop Facebook apps. There's a chance they might come up with something amazing, something really unexpected.

We hope it will give everyone a chance to excel at what they're best at, but also to learn new stuff without the fear of dicking it up.

- We're seeing more and more agencies try to unify their departments. To what degree will you still have a standalone creative department, distinct from strategy and account management?

FH: Well, I think the times of a standalone creative department are well and truly over. Input from account men and planners is crucial to create commercially viable and interesting ideas that cut through. The information needed to create big, nimble ideas is shared between lots of people to come up with the right solution. There needs to be some element, though, where we protect the department's identity and the idea creation process (I nearly said ideation, glad I didn't) to be able to maybe sometimes produce a campaign that is unexpected and not right.

- How have you enjoyed working with each other in the past?

DBT: I met Flo three years ago and, to be honest, I was initially a bit disappointed. Flo was a man.

I'd imagined a busty blonde Bavarian barmaid with steins overflowing with strong frothy lager. Instead, in walked a beardy bloke wearing a black T-shirt with a howling wolf on it.

Things soon picked up, though. We worked together on projects for Tetley, Gap in the US and the UK launch of a Swedish pop band. We realised we had got loads in common and, despite our different backgrounds, were trying to do the same thing.

Nowadays, I'm happy to admit that of all the German death metal freaks with an allotment in Hertfordshire, he is definitely one of my favourites.

FH: I am very interested in the soul of an idea and how to express it. The ability to put a story and a soul at the heart of an idea is something I admire in Danny.

I don't think there are nearly enough ideas in digital that have that soul. At the end of the day, digital or not, we are all human beings.

He brings that emotional side to the table that maybe has been missing from our work a bit. And he knows his way round Google Street View far better than me.

- Finally, be honest: who will be the boss in the partnership?

FH: What a question. Me, of course!

DBT: I'm three months older than him. He's my bitch.


MCBD and Dare will merge to form a single agency in the UK from 2011. The new agency, which will be known simply as Dare, will consist of Helen Calcraft, the MCBD founder, as the executive chairman; John Owen, Dare's joint managing partner, as the deputy chairman; Lee Leggett, Dare's other joint managing partner, as the chief executive; Andy Nairn, MCBD's executive planning director, as the chief strategy officer; and Danny Brooke-Taylor and Flo Heiss sharing executive creative director duties.

The merger comes as part of a wider restructure of the Cossette Group in Europe, which is to rebrand under the EdC banner. As part of the move, Gregor Angus, the chief operating officer of Cossette, is relocating from Canada to become the president of EdC Europe. Mark Collier, the founder of Dare, will work alongside him as the group's chairman.

"We all know digital technology has changed things," Leggett says. "Human beings are still the same, but they have heightened expectations of brands, are more empowered than ever to unearth the truth about those brands and are more able than ever to share their opinions and experiences. Clients want and need marketing solutions that reflect this reality, but few agencies are structured to deliver them. Dare, from the beginning of January, will be."


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