Close-Up: DLKW brings in Prest to raise its creative profile

Defined by its all-singing Halifax ads, the agency hires an award-winning creative to widen its offering.

Howard Brown and his grinning, all-singing and dancing friends at Halifax have seen their last days on our screens.

The agency responsible for the infamous "cast of characters" campaign, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, has until now been defined by this product, despite creating a wide variety of work.

"People still think of DLKW as the agency that produces singing ads, which isn't true, but they need something famous to prove it," Ewan Paterson, CHI & Partners' executive creative director, says.

This sentiment is echoed by an executive creative director who prefers to remain anonymous: "For a large agency, their creative output is a bit middle-of-the-road. Too much of their work seems to be of the song-and-dance variety."

Some would attribute this limited range to the former executive creative directors Malcolm Green and Gary Betts. Although they ably ran the department, they were not widely regarded as pioneering and award-winning creatives.

However, the agency realises that it now has an opportunity to change these opinions. First, with the new Halifax campaign - which sources claim is definitely not all-singing and all-dancing - and second, with the appointment of the award-winning creative director George Prest, who was formerly at Lowe London, as its executive creative director.

"We want to up the game," Greg Delaney, the chairman of DLKW, says. "We want to be a lot more integrated and raise the creative profile of the agency. George will help us achieve this; he will be a good leader for the department."

Within industry circles, DLKW is renowned as an account management powerhouse with a strong senior management line-up, but not for its creative work. Sitting at the polar opposite is Lowe London. Poaching a top creative from the troubled agency is a clever move.

As one anonymous executive creative director says: "George will relish being at an agency that has some clients and some money."

Prest says: "I think they are a fantastically run company with strong senior managers. I can bring a sense of energy, youth and a real determination not to rest until we have squeezed every drop of creativity out of the brief.

"My style is using intelligence and gentle wit, rather than being a hilarious comedy guy. If you look at my body of work as a whole, there is a certain restraint."

Prest started his career at Bartle Bogle Hegarty as a junior copywriter in 1999. Six years later, he joined Lowe London as a senior copywriter and became a creative director in 2007. Over the past ten years, he and his creative partner Johnny Leathers (who remains at Lowe) have won acclaim for a number of high-profile award-winning campaigns for Levi's, Sure, John Lewis and Stella Artois.

Ed Morris, the former managing partner, creative at Lowe London, says: "DLKW's work has been successful, but George can bring a left-field slant and a classy touch. He's a tonal writer."

Despite the support of senior management, Prest - who at 34 has no experience of running a creative department - has a job on his hands to turn the agency's creative output around. But a bit of young blood could be just what the agency needs.