Tom Carty's relocation from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to J. Walter Thompson is without doubt one of the most significant creative coups of the year.
The director and writer, who has earned recognition for his work on Guinness, Volvo, Dunlop and other accounts, remains one of the most in-demand talents in the industry. Partnered with Walter Campbell for more than 12 years, he was one half of one of the London creative teams.
Michael Baulk, the group chairman of AMV, goes as far as crediting Carty with putting the agency on the TV map with his breakthrough "unexpected" Dunlop ad.
It was, Baulk says, unexpected, as the title suggests, and an early signal of the fresh-faced, inexperienced duo's flair for producing seminal work of the highest creative calibre, ads that would go on to receive repeated acclaim.
His departure is bad news for an already stretched creative department at AMV. Nick Worthington, another of the agency's leading creatives, announced his intention to join Publicis over the summer; its executive creative director, Peter Souter, works a four-day week; and Tony Cox, another premier creative, is on extended sick leave.
Carty does not come across as a man who would display a trophy cabinet in his office, but if he did it would contain 22 D&AD Pencils, including three blacks.
These, which he shyly confesses have taken up residence at his mother's house, sit alongside the more recently acquired accolades for his directing.
Since launching his directing career through Gorgeous Enterprises two years ago, he was named Most Promising Beginner at last year's Creative Circle and also won a gold Clio and silver BTAA. He directed The Economist's "freedom of knowledge" spot, as well as the BBC's "rush hour" ad, both for AMV through Gorgeous.
Now JWT beckons, and with it the chance to help raise its creative profile.
He has been lured by Nick Bell, the agency's executive creative director, who joined JWT earlier this year with an ambitious brief to build a strong creative reputation. The agency is not renowned for its awards success. Its strength lies in managing large pieces of global business. Its creative reputation, by comparison, is considerably less striking.
In the five years since the Gunn Report was initiated, the London office of the network has been languishing in the lower ranks of the industry's most honoured.
While the network's Asian and Latin American agencies have racked up enough points to propel JWT to 11th place in last year's study, since 1999 the UK outfit has won only six awards of an equivalent standard to the Cannes bronze Lion. And it currently fails to register in the print or TV awards-based rankings for 2003, due to be unveiled next month.
Campbell, who quit AMV to found Campbell Doyle Dye two years ago, has few doubts JWT will reap the benefits from Carty's arrival. He says: "I think Nick and Tom will be great together. They are both battlers and will work their arses off to get a result. They have the professionalism and the right attitude while being prepared to put the work in."
By Carty's own admission, the creative output at JWT has been "average".
"JWT is pretty low on the radar," he says. "That's the reason Simon Bolton (JWT's chief executive) brought in Nick. When Nick was at Leo Burnett it was the most creative agency in London and he deserves the credit for that. If Nick can do it there, I'm more than confident he can do it for JWT. That's why I'm here."
Carty and Bell were neighbours at AMV and soon became firm friends during their respective spells at the agency. In Carty's words, Bell has hired him essentially on a writing contract. He will not take on a designated creative partner, choosing rather to work alone or with Bell on several projects over the course of the year.
Carty has secured a generous contract, which will enable him to continue directing through Gorgeous. He won't have a base at JWT's Knightbridge office.
"I'm a director first and foremost," he explains. "I write as well because the two are intrinsically linked. But I am a director."
He can cherry pick the clients with which he wants to work and can devote as much, or as little, time as he sees fit for JWT.
This may mean Carty's impact is limited. Indeed, JWT has hired big-name creatives on superannuated freelance contracts in the past but with no discernible impact.
However, Bell has no reservations about bringing Carty on board. "All through his career, Tom has massively over-delivered. He is an outstanding talent and it is exciting to put a brief into him, no matter what it is," he says.
It is a far cry from the mailroom job Carty took in Dorlands after leaving school aged 16. But even then his potential did not go unnoticed and he was swiftly transferred to the shop floor, working his way through traffic, radio and the TV department before landing the post of copywriter at just 19.
After a spell at TBWA he teamed up with Campbell, whom he describes as "the best creative person in the world".
The budding partnership moved to AMV where Carty worked with directors including Tony Kaye and Jonathan Glazer, who become his inspirations and teachers.
Baulk heralds his enthusiasm while describing his "swimblack" spot as the best Guinness ad the agency has produced to date.
He says: "His writing, his eye, his passion, his commitment and his filming ability are fantastic. He is a credit to the advertising industry."