CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/NICK HORSWELL - PHD founders salute a friend and master of ideas. As Nick Horswell prepares to quit, PHD celebrates his attributes

Pattison Horswell Durden launched at the start of 1990 in direct

response to the advent of huge process-driven media buying

conglomerates, such as Zenith Media. By that time Zenith, which launched

in 1988 as the UK's first media operation serving a whole ad agency

group, was proving the sceptics wrong. The future, many argued, was

about a handful of big volume buyers trying to leverage the hell out of

media owners.

It wasn't the kind of future P, H or D wanted to be part of and the rug

was about to be pulled from under their feet. In a complex corporate

manoeuvre the media departments of WCRS (where Pattison and Durden were

joint media directors) and FCO (where Horswell was sole media director)

were about to be folded into Carat.

They didn't reckon there'd be much room for creative thinking and

elegant craft skills in the new consolidated environments so they

decided to branch out and become the Bartle Bogle Hegarty of the media

specialist world. (Pattison worked under John Bartle at TBWA in the

early 80s and regarded him as a mentor.)

They set out to prove that small was beautiful and clients would not

just get the best in tailormade media solutions, they'd get the

principals fully involved on their accounts. They settled into clear

roles: Durden the boy wonder; Pattison the worrier who lived and

breathed the detail; and Horswell as older brother, the calming

influence and the one with gravitas.

The three complemented each other wonderfully and in the 90s, PHD

emerged as one of the market's most successful brands. So successful,

that it has outgrown its early idealism. PHD has, of course, been

absorbed by Omnicom and has grown almost as big as the players it

reacted against when it launched. But its attempts to build its own

international network have been largely unsuccessful.

Is its market positioning as clear as it was? Where does it go from


Can it survive independently in just one market? Should it refocus on

the small-is-beautiful ethos?

Horwell's departure will put those questions into sharp focus and he

will be watching developments with interest, we can be sure. Here, the P

and the D of PHD assess his impact on the business and wish him


Horswell the man, by Jonathan Durden

Nick Horswell is my oldest friend. I usually try to mix with younger

people. It is hard to write this sort of piece without it sounding like

an obituary. In Nick's case this would be particularly inappropriate as

he has had a habit of reinventing himself throughout the 23 years I have

been with him. He is just deciding that life is too slow with twins on

the way and three other children of 21, 19 and 18 months. What he needs

is a challenge.

I first met him in 1978, when he was the media director of FGA. Bearded,

witty and a faint whiff of garlic, these were the original

characteristics that I still recognise in him. That and his deep wisdom

and kindness.

He taught me to appreciate fine wines in an intensive six-week course,

thoughtfully arranged by ITV during its 1979 strike.

Nick is very conscious of how he is perceived. When I bought my first

car at PHD it was a bright red Toyota MR2. He had to borrow it one


Never did a man look more desperate not be recognised. He is all Audi,

Patek Phillippe and Notting Hill. His only tacky indulgence is grubby

Greek restaurants which he visits with me and David. Even then he has

grilled chicken.

He is my mentor, coaching me through my career, as a close friend and

life confidante. I'm sure there are dozens of people who will recount a

similar role that Nick has played for them.

He is the master of having the idea and then getting you to believe it

was all yours. While this sounds manipulative, it is more akin to a

benevolent dictatorship. He is responsible for more change and radical

thought than anyone would probably give him credit for. But I know him

too well. I can read his wry smile. He is the best.

Horswell the adman, by David Pattison

There was one point where PHD was nearly PD or DP before John Ayling

persuaded us to talk to Nick Horswell. Jonathan knew him very well and I

didn't know him at all. There then followed a courtship process between

Nick and myself, the worst of it being that it started like a blind


Nick, of course, handled it with skill, decency and a lot of long words

that I pretended to understand.

In the early stages of PHD, Nick was the glue that held everything

together, kept everybody's feet on the ground and looked after the

financial health of the business. I don't remember him ever saying no to

our requests - tactically pointing out the potential error of our ways

maybe, but never no.

The company worked (and still works) because of the chemistry between

the three of us. We never seemed to really have fixed roles or fixed


We would take turns to be the mediator, or have the extreme views, but

would always reach agreed consensus. Nick's greatest skill was to make

it always feel like you had the idea yourself when, in fact, he had

seeded it at some point in the past. He also forced us to look at

ourselves and the business on a regular basis.

PHD will not really realise what it has lost until he isn't there.

Personally I will miss him like hell and thank him for being a partner

and a fantastic friend. PHD would have been less fun, less successful

and a lesser company without him.

Finally, a word of warning to anyone who works with him in the future:

if he says he is "disappointed" you really have upset him.


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