CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKERS/MARTIN TROUGHTON AND STEVE HARRISON - HPT founders to give Impiric a creative injection. HPT/Impiric's chiefs must merge opposing cultures, Francesca Newland writes

HPT Brand Response is located in a former gentleman's club on the

achingly cool Greek Street. Impiric, on the other hand, can be found at

Greater London House - far away from most beaten tracks. The difference

represents the opposing cultures of the two agencies, which announced

their pending merger last week, and therefore highlights the challenge

facing Martin Troughton and Steve Harrison.

The pair are the 'H' and the 'T' in HPT. The 'P', Tim Patten, left at

the end of last year and is in the process of founding a direct/digital

consultancy within HHCL & Partners. Harrison and Troughton, who own the

majority of HPT, will now own a minority of the WPP-owned Impiric. The

deal has been engineered by Impiric's European chief executive, Stewart

Pearson, who is confidently handing control of the London agency to

Harrison and Troughton. The move will see the existing Impiric managing

director, Richard Bagnall-Smith, leave the agency, and the creative

directors, Graham Mills and Jack Nolan, replaced with Harrison, 'the

godfather of direct marketing creativity'.

The move bears an uncanny resemblance to Young & Rubicam's acquisition

of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe 18 months ago. In fact, Rainey Kelly has

owned a significant minority of HPT since it was founded, while Y&R owns

Impiric. When Rainey Kelly was merged into Y&R, the management of the

much larger Y&R left and the Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe founders took

the helm.

Pearson has bought Harrison and Troughton for good reason. Wunderman

Cato Johnson, which was rebranded Impiric last year, was one of the most

famous brands in direct marketing.

However, under its former global chief, Jay Bingle, it changed

direction. The network began to position itself more as a management

consultancy than a direct agency and gave itself a suitably meaningless

moniker. Bingle, following WPP's acquisition of Impiric's Y&R parent

last year, has departed. Many expect the Impiric name to be dropped in

favour of a return to the Wunderman brand. For now the London outpost

will be called HPT/Impiric.

David Butter, Impiric's European executive vice-president, explains the

thinking behind the HPT deal: 'We want a breath of fresh air - to unlock

the potential.' Steve Aldridge, a former creative director at WCJ and

founder of Partners Andrews Aldridge, adds: 'They are looking to give it

some edge. Impiric is in a secure position with global clients so it has

become a bit complacent. It needs focus. You felt it's the kind of place

where great creative work won't be appreciated because there is such a

big global corporate culture.'

This is where Harrison and Troughton's biggest task lies. The pair have

to imbue the culture of Impiric, and its staff of about 85 people, with

HPT's brand of creatively led business nous. Harrison is proud that

every one of HPT's 35 members of staff is part of a creative process:

'At the moment we have 35 people in our creative department.' At HPT you

are as likely to see the receptionist or a suit going up to collect a

creative award as you are a creative. Harrison's ambition is to

replicate this thinking on a larger scale at HPT/Impiric.

It's a big ambition and Harrison says it will require 'constant

vigilance', but he adds that he feels reassured 'because I've done it

before'. He's referring to his stint at OgilvyOne, where he became one

of the most highly regarded creatives in the business despite the large,

corporate nature of the agency and its clients. Aldridge thinks Harrison

can pull it off: 'He will be able to create a sense of creative worth

and culture. He's one of the few people who can do it.'

Harrison and Troughton claim they don't have any pending bad news which

has made them cut a deal while HPT is on a high. 'We don't have any

skeletons in our closet,' Troughton says. Instead they are motivated by

the desire to be big and handle international clients. Troughton cites

how HPT wasn't able to pitch for Sony recently owing to its lack of

scale. Harrison draws a football analogy: 'We're the best five-a-side

team there is. This deal gives us the opportunity to play in a proper


Both men come from big agency backgrounds (Troughton was a former

managing director of Bates Communications and has done time at Ogilvy)

and the Impiric deal sees them return to what they escaped from three

years ago when they founded HPT. But they now see a key difference.

Troughton says: 'We turned our backs on a lack of control. It wasn't

that we were tired of big agency life, but that we wanted to have an

impact on our agency.' Impiric gives them that opportunity on a large


The pair have a big job on their hands, but seem to have the requisite

experience, charisma and respect of their peers to pull it off. The

feeling was exactly the same when Rainey, Kelly, Campbell and Roalfe

moved into Y&R, but with Ford, Eurostar and Campbell all having

subsequently taken their business elsewhere, the jury is still out on

how deep their impact has been.


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