Emma Hall meets the duo who have found a sunnier horizon after GGK’s
Are they a winning team who have passed through a difficult period to
start a dynamic new agency? Or a couple of mediocre admen who have just
about saved their bacon?
Paul Cardwell and Andrew Hawkins, the GGK bosses who last week tied up
with Doner International to create Doner Cardwell Hawkins, have a lot to
prove. They must convince clients, colleagues and peers that they have
it in them to run a decent advertising agency.
‘This whole industry is about perception,’ Hawkins, the straight man of
the duo, acknowledges. He expands: ‘Every agency in London is three
phone calls away from disaster - the only difference with GGK was that
calamity was just the one call away.’
GGK has stumbled around, burdened with the ‘beleaguered agency’ tag for
the past two years, and many observers wonder whether Cardwell and
Hawkins will ever be able to shake off the years of failure.
A former colleague says: ‘Andrew works hard and Paul is good at
absorbing new influences - they both care, and they deserve a break.’
But he warns: ‘They have no proven ability, and it is getting harder and
harder to run a small agency. You need flair, drive and friends in the
Don Riesett, the president of Doner International, who becomes chairman
and chief executive of Doner Cardwell Hawkins, stands by his deal. He
says: ‘They have retained a positive attitude and survived challenges
that would have crushed lesser men, plus they each have great
credibility in the UK, which Doner lacks.’
What has motivated Cardwell and Hawkins to keep going? According to
them, giving up was never an option. Young families and good lifestyles
must play a part. But pride, stubbornness, fear of failure and a love of
the job are equally important factors.
‘It’s like making a phone call,’ Cardwell, the new agency’s creative
director, says. ‘You invest so much time letting it ring you have to
hang on until it’s answered.’
In the same way, the two men have hung on at GGK until the mess was
resolved, rather than bale out into safer jobs at big agencies. They
even won business (InterCity), as they are quick to point out, but
ironically had to keep quiet about it for fear of success pushing up the
price of the agency they were busy trying to buy.
Hawkins has all the appearance of an advertising ‘suit’, a cool man who
would be at home as a senior account man in a large agency.
In fact this is where his advertising career began - as a graduate
trainee at Ogilvy and Mather in 1982. From there he followed two
colleagues, Chris Woollams and Gerry Moira, to Publicis where he spent
the next five years.
Hawkins joined GGK in 1988, and in 1990 was made managing director.
Three years later he and Cardwell were running the agency, having taken
part in the ousting of its then bosses, Mike Townsin and Kitty O’Hagan.
This was not the career that Hawkins had anticipated. He grew up in
Africa and the Middle East, and was boarding at a minor public school in
Bedford from the age of eight. After a degree in economics, he gained an
MBA in the US and then returned to the UK to start at O&M.
At 43, Cardwell is six years older than Hawkins. He wears loud shirts,
is obsessed with ballet, and has an entertaining loquaciousness that has
earned him the role of Richard and Judy’s advertising spokesman on their
ITV daytime show, This Morning.
His background, like his dress sense, is the opposite of Hawkins.
Cardwell grew up in a rough area of Glasgow, left school at 15, and
refuses to fill in the gap between then and when he broke into
advertising with a job at Foote Cone and Belding, 12 years later.
He hints mysteriously at his dark exploits during the intervening years:
‘I can’t do jury service,’ he says. Cardwell is proud of being Scottish
but would never return there to live, and despises what he calls the
downtrodden whingeing of many of his compatriots.
He is happily settled as an outsider in London, but believes his
background has improved his work: ‘We are not into impressing other
agencies. Advertising’s audience is the opposite to its creators, and
nobody buying any of the stuff we advertise lives in London.’
Cardwell’s advertising career took him from FCB to Young and Rubicam,
and from there to Publicis, where he met up with Hawkins to form what
has proved to be a resilient professional relationship.
Trust, respect and the confidence to lose their tempers with each other
has sustained the partnership over the past two difficult years. ‘It was
our nightmare. But Andrew kept me laughing,’ Cardwell says.
Within Cardwell’s next jest -‘Between us we just about make one adult
human being’ - lies a truth: they genuinely need each other and their
destinies are inextricably linked for the foreseeable future.
A former colleague says of the duo: ‘They complement each other and are
comfortable in each other’s company, but they do not change each other
or free each other to think differently. The inclusion of Riesett in the
mix could provide something to both and make everyone stronger.’
Another ex-colleague is less kind: ‘Doner has bought an oven-ready
management team that has clearly failed to deliver the goods in the
past. Force of circumstances keeps them together - they are not a
GGK’s finest moment was the ‘creature comforts’ campaign for the
Electricity Association in 1990. The work was a great new-business tool
in that it generated a stream of potential clients. But it was not
enough to ensure the success of the agency.
GGK’s European holding company, based in Switzerland, went into
receivership in autumn 1993, and UK representatives flew over to Zurich
immediately to sort out a deal. A party from Madrid had got there first,
and was taking a siesta in the boardroom, so that Hawkins and Cardwell
were banished to the company kitchen for the most important meeting of
They decided to buy out the UK agency, but the agreed price had
increased prohibitively by February 1994 - GGK International, which owed
millions, had pushed it up tenfold. A ‘GGK folds in debt crisis’
headline in Campaign made the UK clients every agency’s new-business
target, but the storm was weathered until the summer, when IBM, GGK’s
second biggest client, realigned internationally into O&M.
The National and Provincial building society quit in October, by which
time Hawkins had to admit that, despite his efforts, the agency was
failing. In telling the story, he remembers every date, every figure,
and can quote verbatim from Campaign’s many stories chronicling GGK’s
‘Anal’ is Cardwell’s description of his partner’s personality, and
Hawkins tacitly accepts the label. His demeanour is generally reserved
and quiet, but his engagement in the conversation is revealed
sporadically by sudden loud bursts of laughter.
Cardwell leads the conversation, and projects an enthusiasm for the
industry that appears undiminished by experience. ‘I never forget how
lucky I am to be doing it - the only thing that terrifies me is boredom.
I have seen what it does to people up in Scotland, turning everything
into a crisis.’
To avoid boredom, Doner Cardwell Hawkins is going to have to win new
business and create great campaigns, not just become a UK outpost for
Doner, which holds down existing clients and disappears slowly into
Hawkins says: ‘Doner has put its name to the agency and wants it to
shine. We will spend six months consolidating what we have, building up
to a big new-business drive next spring.’
Cardwell and Hawkins feel sure that away from the shackles of an
unsuccessful network and with a fresh start, courtesy of the Americans,
the new agency will shine.
Cardwell declares bullishly: ‘We intend to do a lot of work, cause
trouble, and make money. Our work is as good as anyone’s, and we are not
afraid of anything.’