On his second day as group chief executive of Bates UK, Toby Hoare
is to be found working out of the same modest office he once occupied as
a humble account manager 15 years ago.
Not far away, the more spacious lair of Hoare’s predecessor, Graham
Hinton, has lain empty since he was forced abruptly to vacate it barely
48 hours earlier.
So abruptly that Hinton’s personal belongings have still to be removed
Yet the former Young & Rubicam chief executive was in no hurry to claim
the territory. Hinton, Hoare indicated, should be able to take his leave
in dignified fashion.
Critics would argue that such sensitivity has been conspicuously absent
in Westbourne Terrace in recent years, where revolving-door management
has only benefitted litigation lawyers.
There is a widespread belief that Bates UK cannot afford to get it wrong
again and that Hoare represents the best chance of restoring its self
belief and former glory.
Bullshit-free, a team player who makes his people feel good about
themselves, liked and trusted by his clients, but somebody who will not
shirk tough decisions, talk to people across the industry about Hoare
and the verdict on him is consistent. As Tim Broadbent, the Y&R planning
director, puts it: ’Toby is as straight as a die.’
Whether he would recognise these qualities in himself is an open
’He has never been quick to take credit,’ observes Stevie Spring, who
worked alongside Hoare as Y&R’s managing partner. ’He’s a lot better
than he thinks he is.’
Bates UK will be a different place in his charge. ’Just because he is
affable you should never underestimate his determination,’ warns Rupert
Howell, the HHCL & Partners chairman, who hired Broadbent for Y&R.
Despite not having set foot in Bates for 12 years, Hoare, now 39, does
at least comprehend what makes it tick: ’I do understand the culture,
which is hard to define but seductive.’ He knows too that any attempt at
a quick fix will surely backfire.
Nevertheless, he is keen to hurry ahead with a 90-day initiative to
evolve a form of words - ’I’m reluctant to call it a mission statement’
- articulating what the agency does and doesn’t do, and what it could do
Certainly, the place is much transformed from the then Saatchi &
Saatchi-owned DFS Dorland which Hoare left in 1987, when Dorlands had a
reputation as a deft handler of conservative clients but with a creative
output more workmanlike than leading edge.
The intervening years have been a rollercoaster ride for the agency -
from its creative flowering under Andrew Cracknell in the late 80s to
the more recent period when internal upheavals caused it to become
Hoare believes Bates has to rediscover itself. ’This isn’t an agency
which has sought the limelight. It just got on with the job of doing big
populist campaigns for some of the country’s largest advertisers. What’s
more, it has successfully cracked retail, easily the toughest part of
The downside is what Hoare senses is a safety-first philosophy. ’I’d
like Bates to have a slightly more sexy and dynamic proposition,’ he
’The agency has a risk-averse culture. It doesn’t necessarily have to be
turned upside down - but it does need to be challenged.’
Parallels between Bates’s current predicament and the situation which
confronted Hoare when he was propelled into the managing director’s
chair at Y&R in 1994 are bound to be drawn.
’Toby was the last hope,’ a Y&R senior executive of the time
’If he hadn’t worked out, our entire credibility in the UK would have
’Looking back, it was scary,’ Hoare recalls. ’The place was a shambles
and yet there was huge goodwill towards us. People wanted to see us up
and running again.’
At Bates, there are some obvious questions. Will he want a group of his
own appointees around him? ’I’ve no plans to bring in anybody else. I
would rather get the best out of the people we have here.’
As for the Hinton-inspired restructure of Bates UK into a fully
integrated operation, a catharsis that proved too much for several
senior managers, Hoare believes the worst is over. ’We’re through the
pain barrier,’ he says. ’All agencies of this size have to face the
problem and Graham’s thinking was correct. Unfortunately, the way the
changes manifested themselves outside the agency led to
The other big issue is whether Hoare and Cracknell, brought back in
October to restore the agency’s creative reputation, can forge a good
Hoare is confident that what he achieved with Mike Cozens at Y&R can be
replicated. ’I’m sure Andrew and I will have disagreements,’ he
’But he is a pragmatic and articulate creative manager and those are the
skills needed here.’
Undoubtedly, Hoare will usher in a management approach markedly
different from his predecessor’s laid-back style. Hinton’s habit of
rarely turning up for a lunch date on time would be anathema to Hoare.
’Toby always knows what he has to do each day,’ says Justin Cernis, who
worked with Hoare at Y&R in the late 80s. ’He’s very ordered.’
Hoare’s manners are the by-product of an Establishment background. An
Old Harrovian with a penchant for pinstripe suits, cufflinked pink
shirts and paisley ties, he is what The Sun would call a ’toff’,
although nobody could ever accuse him of exploiting his roots.
On the contrary, he is anxious to lock them away from scrutiny along
with his private life which revolves around his wife of 13 years and
their three young children. It was because of them that he rejected two
top Y&R network jobs which would have necessitated moving to New
Ever polite, he will admit only to his ’disappointment’ at finding
himself without a role after the marriage of Y&R with Rainey Kelly
Campbell Roalfe four months ago when many believe he should have had the
chairmanship of the merged agency. ’He was screwed over badly,’ a former
Hoare is more sanguine, claiming that he never regarded what happened to
him as slap in the face, but merely something which forced him to
reappraise his career path.
Whether Bates will allow Hoare to fulfil what was denied him at Y&R
remains to be seen. What’s certain is that he will tackle the task with
hard work and steely determination. ’Bates needs to be vibrant and
successful,’ he says. ’That’s important - at least it is to me!’