Close-Up: Newsmaker - Can a cheeky chappie rediscover MCBD's mojo?

MCBD is counting on Danny Brooke-Taylor's creative pedigree to help reinvigorate the agency. Noel Bussey reports.

Normally the announcement of a new recruit to an agency's senior management team (especially a cool creative hiring) is a great boost for an agency. However, if a week after the announcement your flagship account puts itself out to pitch, then it takes the gloss off it a little.

But that is what Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy is facing with the review of Waitrose sullying the appointment of Danny Brooke-Taylor as its new creative director.

Once he joins, the founding creative partners of Paul Briginshaw and Malcolm Duffy will take on executive creative director roles, leaving the running of the department to Brooke-Taylor.

Briginshaw says: "It's a natural evolution. It happens in all agencies. Sooner or later, it's time for the partners to take an executive role. But we're not retiring yet, so we'll still be involved."

However, a number of industry insiders believe the hiring is vitally important because the agency has recently struggled to produce consistently strong work.

One insider says: "Helen (Calcraft) and Jeremy (Miles) are amazing in front of clients and they got rich through picking up good pieces of business. But there is a lack of, what I would call, the 'make you feel funny in he stomach' creative."

The agency has also been struggling recently with new business. Since picking up Vision Express (£7 million) and Edge (£4 million) in March, it has failed to convert a pitch - missing out on business including the Evening Standard (£10 million), the Food Standards Agency (£4 million) and Sacla Pasta (£4 million).

Not a great conversion rate and quite sobering given the upcoming fight to retain Waitrose. MCBD has also lost business this year as Thorntons (£2 million) and Blacks Leisure Group (£2 million) both walked out of the door.

However, Briginshaw maintains that this has nothing to do with creative, instead saying that there are "a number of reasons why you don't win pitches and why you lose business, and we're not concerned it's the creative product".

Although, not everyone agrees. An insider says: "Brooke-Taylor needs to work very quickly and very effectively to reinvigorate and refresh what has become a stagnant creative department and product, or the agency may see this barren spell extending into 2008."

Some more cynical people in the industry may also look at the appointment as a little rash, especially the ones who use that word that almost anyone under 40 in their first senior management role hates to hear - "untested".

However, Miles, a founding partner, refutes this claim: "He had eight or nine years at TBWA in a fantastic team, and he ran the department for some of it. He has bags of experience and is a 360- degree creative. Plus, he's coming in as a partner with a stake in the agency, and there is no better motivator than that."

Brooke-Taylor adds: "People can say what they want, but I am always learning, and even if I hated the last year at TBWA, I wasn't letting the experience go to waste. It taught me a lot and helped me mature my ideas on how to run a department."

The agency is also eager to point out that it is still putting out good creative and picking up awards.

MCBD puts special emphasis on D&AD, with Briginshaw pointing out that it is ranked the eighth most creative agency in the world in the D&AD Annual, as well as highlighting the Campaign Poster Awards wins for Millets and the BTAA win for its innovative Operation Trident "Gun Crime" work that saw the agency create a music video for the UK group Roll Deep.

Miles was so intent on getting this story across that he even went to the trouble of following up Campaign's conversation with Briginshaw with his own call to reiterate the plus points. This speaks volumes about the agency's awareness that it's had a less than sparkling year, but it's also evidence of MCBD's desire to turn things around - something that Brooke-Taylor is drawn to.

"There is a real strength and determination within the agency, but I think it is hidden away. They're not very good at shouting about the work they do or getting themselves noticed," Brooke-Taylor says. "I intend to come in and inject some vigour and naughtiness."

This is something that the cheeky Northerner should be capable of, if his easy and often comically rude personality is anything to go by.

He even maintains that after Marketing Week reported that MCBD had appointed his uncle, the former Goodie Tim Brooke-Taylor, he is thinking of populating the entire department with old-school TV celebrities, beginning with Tony Hart as his head of art.

By starting off at TBWA in Manchester before moving to London, Brooke-Taylor has been in the TBWA fold for a long time, and was, more importantly, part of the creative zenith that the agency experienced under the creative directorship of Trevor Beattie.

And through talking to him, you can see that working in that department has made an indelible impression, one he is desperate to pass on to his teams at MCBD.

"There was never a hierarchy under Trevor, it was a bunch of mates working together, having a laugh and creating some fantastic work. He had a way of bringing people together and just getting the best out of them. And that's what I need to bring to this role."

Brooke-Taylor cites this need for the "group of mates" approach as a major reason for taking the job, because he says the core team at MCBD works in the same way.

"Throughout the interview process, I met all four names above the door as well as the joint managing directors (Michael Pring and Melissa Robertson). They demonstrated there's a team quality that they wanted me to be a part of that leads to an innate integrity. They're not helicoptering in someone as a social experiment," he says.

Talking of social experiments, he has yet to meet the agency's executive chairman, Jonathan Durden, who, as anyone who hasn't been living on Mars can tell you, had a very interesting summer.

Brooke-Taylor says: "I wasn't really aware of that. One of my mates said: 'What about the cocaine and hookers thing?' And I thought 'Shit, I've been rumbled', before they explained what they meant."

Following the problems and frustrations he faced towards the end of his tenure at TBWA, Brooke-Taylor is almost childishly excited about this role and the opportunities it offers him, especially the chance to work closely with other companies in the Cossette Group.

"It's a genuine integrated business which, in my eyes, just means more mates and more people to do cool stuff with," he says. He makes special mention of Flo Heiss, the executive creative director at Dare (Cossette's latest acquisition).

The plan will be for the two creatives, and their departments, to lean on each other and share resources as and when it's needed.

Whether the founders think they have had a tough year or not, MCBD and its new creative director both seem to exude confidence and excitement about the hiring. If they can turn this into a tangible offering, then it may not be too much of a stretch to see Waitrose remaining where it is.

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 38
Lives: Stoke Newington
Family: Janey, Daisy and Betsy
Most treasured possession: All three of them
Last book you read: The Damned Utd
Favourite ad: That one with a frog in it
Motto: Never have a motto

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