When Simon Burridge, the new group chairman of HHCL & Partners,
takes up his position at the beginning of June, he'll be faced with a
new type of challenge.
For a man used to the structure of agencies such as J. Walter Thompson
and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, HHCL's hot-desking policy might come as a
bit of a shock.
'As far as I know, I won't have my own office,' the former chief
executive of Richard Branson's unsuccessful People's Lottery, says. 'I'm
going to really immerse myself in HHCL's culture - and that means
finding a new desk every morning.'
Mind you, Burridge, whose family owns the racehorse Desert Orchid, has
grown accustomed to a degree of uncertainty in his working routine.
Since the People's Lottery lost its bid for the next seven-year licence
after a controversial battle with Camelot, he has been winding down the
operation, working on a few other projects for Branson, and fielding the
He claims to have turned down a fair few, but says the opportunity to
take up HHCL's most senior role was too good to miss. 'HHCL has a point
of difference,' he says. 'Lots of agencies don't have that relentless
curiosity, the courage to challenge the status quo.'
An agency network lifer, Burridge started his career at Ayer Baker and
Dewe Rogerson, before joining JWT in 1987. A board director on Kraft and
BT, he helped put together Branson's first lottery bid before moving to
AMV as a senior board director. Burridge moved back to JWT in 1996,
becoming a managing partner in 1997. Most of 1999 and 2000 was taken up
organising Branson's second tilt at the Lottery. But the man who
mistakenly left out the letter l in a sign-off to WPP chief executive
Martin Sorrell, leaving the message: 'See you shorty', did not
Once he's found his feet, Burridge will 'get stuck in' to the task in
hand - helping realise parent company Chime Communications' ambitions
'The agency is poised for significant new growth, but has reached a
crossroads - it must decide what it's going to do next,' he says.
HHCL's need to redefine itself as it grows bigger has been no secret -
witness the flurry of growth in the past six months which has seen the
creation of the Heresy internet consultancy and a digital and direct
'HHCL is no longer just a creative hotshop start-up,' Burridge
'It was revolutionary, and revolutions don't just stop -they gain more
momentum for more change,' Buridge says.
'We've got bigger plans,' HHCL's chief executive, Robin Azis, echoes,
countering claims that the agency's increasing size has led to a decline
in creativity. 'We're about to enter the big league in terms of size and
scope, without, of course, losing the creative edge.'
However, Azis has previously admitted that the lack of a global, or even
pan-European, presence has taken its toll. Amazon reviewed its account
from HHCL on that basis, and the agency will lose its last piece of
Guinness business - the Irish market - this summer after the company
pooled it into Saatchi & Saatchi and AMV late last year.
Burridge's experience with high-profile global clients should provide
HHCL with a more competitive international profile - and could help
develop the global contacts to compete with the networks. Right now,
he'll bed himself into HHCL's existing management structure, working
alongside, 'not above,' Azis, the founders and creative directors, Steve
Henry and Axel Chaldecott, and the planning partner, Jon Leach. However,
if things go wrong, 'I'll be the one directly responsible.'
He brushes aside concerns that staffers, accustomed to HHCL's tradition
of internal promotion, may view his external hiring with a degree of
scepticism. Most who have worked with him agree that Burridge will find
his feet quickly. He's 'bloody good fun,' according to one former JWT
His arrival does mean the departure of Chime's joint chief executive,
co-founder of HHCL and the former IPA president, Rupert Howell, from the
day-to-day operations of the agency.
Howell's diminished presence at HHCL, Burridge admits, was one of the
main reasons for his hiring. 'We'll be working very closely in the early
days, but this isn't about cutting him off from HHCL,' he says.
Even if he doesn't get a permanent seat in the agency's offices,
Burridge has one reserved on the management board at Chime, reporting to
the UK group managing director, Chris Satterthwaite. Satterthwaite,
HHCL's former chief executive, took up his position 1997, along with
A short stint as the chief executive aside, the move to the role of
group chairman from his most recent agency role as a managing partner at
JWT could be seen by some as more a leap than a hop for Burridge. Yet he
seems unconcerned. 'Any new role is taking a step into uncharted
territory,' he says.