The long-promised changes at Ogilvy & Mather are at last starting to appear. The agency has raided Lowe and hired the premier creative talent James Sinclair to supply much-needed improvements to its £95 million Ford account.
The appointment, by the newly arrived executive creative director, Malcolm Poynton, has been heralded as the start of a period of rejuvenation and reassessment within the agency.
For his part, Sinclair, a 39-year-old copywriter, cannot hide his enthusiasm for the new venture: "I'm extremely excited about the job."
The word "nervous" does not appear to register in Sinclair's vocabulary - despite the fact he is about to take control of one of the largest accounts in the business. It's a position that would give many sleepless nights.
But for Sinclair there is simply no room for butterflies. "It is time for me to step up to that next level and give myself a bigger and better palette to paint from," he says.
Few can question his credentials or ability to take on the challenge.
After more than 11 years in the business as a copywriter and creative director, and as the author of advertising favourites such as "double life" for Sony PlayStation and "lost dog" for Volkswagen, he has all the necessary qualifications.
But this promises to be a very different challenge to the "roaming" role that he and his long-term creative partner, Ed Morris, previously enjoyed at TBWA/London. There'll be no more cherry-picking for him; it's big, corporate work for Ford that he will have to churn out. He's going to have to get his fingers very dirty.
However, Sinclair seems prepared. "Ford is one of the world's greatest brands," he says. "That's why I couldn't afford to pass the opportunity up. All I've got to do is to convert competence into excellence. That's what Ford deserves. Following my time at TBWA, I'm familiar with what it takes to motivate people and can help them nurture their talent. I also know how to chose the right work."
Sinclair's decision to split from Morris, his partner since 1992 at the then Miller &Leeves WAHT, might seem rather a strange one.
The duo had established themselves as a formidable creative force over the past decade and, by Sinclair's own admission, would probably have gone on to head Lowe's creative department together, had he stuck around.
But when quizzed on his decision to break up such a successful team, Sinclair is clear on why it finally had to come to an end. "I didn't want to be part of a working writing team any more," he says. "Ed Morris and I had got to a point where we knew each other well enough to second guess each other, and that's when it's time to leave. It was just time to move on. At some time we would have taken over the department, but I thought it was better that happened to one of us separately."
Damon Collins, the creative director at Lowe during the six-month period Sinclair was employed by the agency, is convinced he will rise to the occasion. He says: "I'm sad to see him leave Lowe. But at the same time, I think he's more than qualified to do the job."
Poynton, too, evidently has few reservations about his choice, and is prepared to go as far as to describe Sinclair's work as "frighteningly consistent". "James' work has a certain maturity and is probably some of the best that has been produced in Britain over the past five years," he adds.
Perhaps more significantly, the Ford account has become so large - the European account is run out of O&M's London office - and the volume of work is so great that Poynton felt it needed someone to give it their undivided attention.
And so the internal title of creative partner was born, as part of Poynton's plans to create a cleaner structure to the department.
In accordance with this move towards simplicity, Sinclair will work closely with Dennis Lewis, who will operate as a creative partner on different accounts as and when it's required. Recent output on Ford, particularly for the Fiesta and Mondeo models, has lacked stand-out. But, once again, the prospect of such pressure fails to ruffle Sinclair. Instead, he seems to thrive on it. "I'm confident in my own ability," he states.
And his respect for Poynton only serves to boost this prevailing air of confidence.
"Malcolm knows what he's doing," Sinclair says. "His arrival was one of the key points in my decision to move because I knew he wanted to transform the agency. I would have been more worried about going in and trying to transform Ford if he hadn't been working towards moving all the accounts on."
Paul Jackson, the chief executive at O&M, believes the agency has chosen the right man for the task. "He has a great way of getting on the wavelength of the market he is talking to," he states.
Sinclair's credentials for good car advertising were proven with VW. Now he needs to show he can do it from scratch for Ford.