CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER - NICK HASTINGS. BDDH picks perfect partner out of D'Arcy wreckage

The agency's new creative director has just the right qualities, Jeremy Lee says.

By most standards, Partners BDDH had a pretty good run at new business last year. Account wins including Citroen, bmi and the Evening Standard kept the agency out of trouble and in the news. However, the same cannot be said of its creative performance.

Its work for bmi baby may have done the job but it was hardly going to win any awards or get the agency talked about. Welch's UK debut in creative terms was painful, while the kitchen towel Bounty's cross-dressers tick only strategic boxes.

This is something that the BDDH management team decided to address in the second half of last year and, in a very amicable fashion, the creative director, Will Awdry, quit to join BMP DDB earlier this month.

The agency was able to announce its replacement for Awdry within a week of his departure. Enter Nick Hastings, the most high-profile UK casualty of D'Arcy's closure. The apparent speed with which Hastings was recruited made it clear that discussions, both with Awdry and Hastings, have been going on for some time.

On the face of it, Hastings' appointment is a bit of a coup for BDDH - after all, the likes of Ogilvy & Mather and Grey Worldwide have been seeking a creative head for months.

But scratch beneath the surface and you might ask yourself why he hasn't already been snapped up by one of those agencies.

And in terms of size, moving from D'Arcy to BDDH is a backward step - isn't it? "I guess that all the other agencies are slow-moving and I didn't want to get caught up in internal politics," Hastings says.

He adds that he was attracted by the people and the opportunity to make a difference at BDDH, and this might not be as trite as it sounds. Barry Cook, the former D'Arcy managing director, testifies: "Nick would have based the decision on the people rather than the agency." He adds: "One of his qualities was producing good results rather than revelling in the spotlight."

Hastings shows no bitterness over his treatment during the merger of D'Arcy and Burnett when Burnett's Nick Bell got the executive creative job. After all, with Bell now quitting Burnett to join J. Walter Thompson, the irony cannot have passed him by. He offers: "There's no way we could have done a joint thing."

Hastings is remarkably well mannered, with a lack of the egotism characteristic of some creatives. If you're into stereotypes then perhaps you could conclude it might be because of his background. Hastings is pretty posh - the son of a senior RAF officer, he was educated at Dulwich College and Cambridge.

Not that he is without sensitivities: he almost howls with pain when asked how old he is - 44 - and, eager not be seen as an old git, explains that he came to advertising late in life, having bummed around for many years in San Francisco.

His break came when he returned to England and, with a brother in the advertising industry, got himself on a D&AD course. With Nick Godfree as his art director partner, he tried to get into an agency. Later, he was poached from Miller & Leeves WAHT to join CDP where he ended up as the creative director at the tender age of 33.

In 1995, nine months after his departure from CDP, Hastings joined DMB&B as a group head and he worked his way up to executive creative director in 1998.

At D'Arcy's creative helm, Hastings built a very credible reel of big ads for big clients. D'Arcy's work for COI Communications - including a moving spot for nursing recruitment - made it the biggest COI agency. Fiat work has been consistently entertaining, while McCain enjoyed the long-running "you just can't help yourself" campaign.

Hastings' experience of working on Fiat was no doubt an attraction for BDDH, which is currently getting to grips with its £40 million Citroen account, not a brand traditionally associated with strong creative work.

Hastings claims that he's looking forward to getting his hands dirty improving the BDDH creative product and running a much smaller creative department than he has become accustomed to. At BDDH, there are just seven creative teams while D'Arcy had 19. "The issue at BDDH is that, although strategically it's sound, creatively it isn't cutting it. It's a blank canvas to work on," he adds.

Those who know Hastings think that this is a great move both for him and the agency - while BDDH may not be the biggest or sexiest agency in town, it does have both ambition and direction.

Largely because of the talent of one of its now-departed founders Leslie Butterfield, BDDH has evolved into an agency associated with strong strategic, rather than creative, credentials. This will not shock Hastings as D'Arcy too was an agency that held its planning department, and work that worked, in high esteem. All things considered, Hastings is a good cultural match for BDDH.