The past decade has been a rollercoaster ride for Bates UK. The 80s
came to an unremarkable close, the early 90s heralded enviable growth
and creative strength, but the late 90s have shunted the agency back
into the doldrums.
Clearly, the lapse has not gone unnoticed by Bates’ senior
Last week the agency re-appointed Andrew Cracknell as executive creative
director in what can be nothing more than an attempt to recreate its
success of the early 90s, with which Cracknell was closely
Cracknell’s departure in 1994, amid a very public flurry of litigation,
was one of Bates’ more colourful management changes of the past decade,
but there were others. As Michael Bungey, the head of Bates Worldwide,
summarises: ’The reality is that in the past ten years Bates UK has had
two chairmen, I was one of them, three chief executives, of which I was
one, and three creative directors, one of whom has now returned.’
Cracknell originally joined Bates in 1987 when Bungey was still running
the London office. Bit by bit the pair, together with Les Stern, the
planning director, and John Stubbings, the managing director, moulded
Bates into a profitable and creatively admired agency. Campaigns of the
era included Halifax ’people’, a Cannes Grand Prix-winning Heinz poster
campaign and Tennent’s Pilsner’s ’back-to-front’.
However, Cracknell’s re-appointment is unlikely to guarantee a return to
past successes. It comes at an unstable time for Bates UK. The network’s
European head, Jean de Yturbe, is reported to be interviewing a range of
candidates to take over the London office. It is unclear where such an
appointment would leave Graham Hinton, the agency’s chairman and the
former president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.
Bungey, speaking from his London office, is non-committal: ’I would be
surprised if the agency was talking to anyone about the chairman’s job.
I don’t spend that much time here. There are always things going on that
aren’t my responsibility. De Yturbe is responsible for the London
De Yturbe plays down the seriousness of the talks he has been having
with UK industry bigwigs. He says Hinton is staying in his job, but when
asked about the long-term future he says: ’We’ll see. The most important
thing was to refocus the creative product.’
He assesses Hinton’s performance as follows: ’The IPA has been taking a
hell of a lot of time with Graham. He was almost two or three days a
week doing God knows what. For the rest, he has done his job.’
Yet both Bungey and Cracknell claim that it is Hinton who has hired
Bungey says: ’It was Graham Hinton’s conclusion. I support it. He felt
that there needed to be a change in the UK brought about in part because
Jay Pond-Jones (the former executive creative director) was not entirely
happy with his situation there.’
Morale is said to be at an all-time low at Bates UK and several creative
teams have recently left the agency. This is why some believe the
appointment of Cracknell has been hurried through. Cracknell asserts: ’I
can re-inject some self-confidence.’
Observers are unanimous that Pond-Jones’s unhappiness has contributed to
low morale, but morale was also dealt a blow by Hinton’s merger of Bates
Dorland with its below-the-line agency, 141. Some 27 staff quit the
agency because of the merger. Peter Crossing, the former chairman of 141
UK, says: ’They merged the bottom line which took profit share away from
He also questions Hinton’s dedication: ’Graham is always busy doing
something but no-one knows what. Internally, he’s not dealing with the
troops and externally, he’s not dealing with the clients.’
When Hinton took over in 1996 he inherited an agency that had recently
lost three key clients: P&O Ferries, Range Rover and Compaq. Cracknell
says: ’They were all profitable and all demanded good creative work.
Their departure led to a fall in income and a fall in confidence - all
the good people leave in situations like that.’
Subsequent losses have included Heinz and Cussons. Hinton says: ’We’re
working really hard to recover because we’ve had a hard time. We can’t
go through the changes we have without some fallout. Changing our
creative director in the middle is not ideal, but it’s the right thing
Critics feel that Cracknell’s appointment is a backward move. However,
Bungey argues: ’He is a first-class creative director with a great
personality, strategic thinking and he’s a people motivator.’
Cracknell says his experience will stand him in good stead to bring back
stability and to oversee the integrated stance of the agency: ’I’m used
to an integrated creative department from my days at Ammirati Puris
Whatever Cracknell’s strengths, the political issues he faces now he has
joined Bates UK are likely to dull his potential. With top management
looking insecure, it seems Bates has put the cart before the horse by
hiring Cracknell now.
TWELVE TURBULENT YEARS
Andrew Cracknell joins Bates Dorland as creative director.
Halifax ’people’ and Tennent’s ’back-to-front’ launched.
Rover account moves to Kevin Morley Marketing. Michael Bungey, chairman
of Bates Europe, made president of Bates’ New York office.
Cracknell agrees to be creative director of Bates’ New York agency on
the promise that he can return to his old job, if he chooses. Paul Twivy
joins from J. Walter Thompson as chief executive. Cracknell steps down
from the New York job but finds Twivy has replaced him with Tim Ashton
from Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Cracknell sues Bates.
Graham Hinton appointed chairman. Paul Twivy departs.
Tim Ashton ousted. Hinton hires Jay Pond-Jones as executive creative
Hinton merges Bates Dorland with 141 to form Bates UK. Pond-Jones
leaves. Cracknell replaces him.