Close-Up: Why Nikki Crumpton left Fallon to join McCann

What tempted a Fallon veteran of eight years to move to a shop with a lesser creative reputation? James Hamilton finds out.

Excited and nervous probably best describes how Nikki Crumpton must feel as she eyes her imminent move to McCann Erickson London as the agency's new executive planning director.

In an industry used to raising eyebrows at career moves, Crumpton's was particularly surprising. She was Fallon's first employee. Despite approaches by headhunters in her eight years at the agency, she says she never went for one job interview until she got the call about McCann. McCann couldn't be a more different culture, and its creative output isn't in the same league as Fallon's. What could have persuaded her to go?

Cynics might suggest it was down to the number of noughts on the contract. Crumpton disagrees - for her, the decision was about moving out of a comfortable place and looking for a new challenge. "There's a misconception about what McCann does," she says. "I wasn't expecting to see the quality of work I saw. I wouldn't have gone there if I didn't think the ambition to create great work was there."

Besides, she says, you don't go to another agency like Fallon. "You have to look for new opportunities. Emotionally, it floored me. I was resigning to five people I'd worked with for eight years. Laurence (Green) was my mentor, not just someone I worked for." She says she passed up the traditional Fallon leaving do because she would have blubbed and ruined it.

Those ties go both ways. Green describes her as "a nurturer, both of people and of brands. She rarely thinks of herself first." He'll be sad to see her go, but notes: "People like Nikki leave strong departments. We'll promote from within - we're spoiled for choice."

Crumpton began her career in media sales, working for the then head of ad sales at Carlton Television, Martin Bowley. It was, she says, radically different from the rarefied atmosphere at Oxford University. "I realised that clever people didn't necessarily go to university. It was good getting a harsh dose of reality there," she says.

From Carlton she moved to BMP's planning department. It was there she met Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod, the Fallon creative partners. Their departure for the-start up led her to pester Green for a job. It was also at BMP that Crumpton first worked with Brian Fraser and Simon Learman, the executive creative directors whom she joins on the McCann management board. Stephen Whyte, the McCann chief executive, is overjoyed Crumpton is coming to the agency. "She has a clear vision of how planning should evolve to maximise opportunities for brands," he says.

Crumpton agrees, although she's a little nervous at the prospect of running a department twice as large in a huge agency that is part of a vast global network. And for all her ties to her old home, there's an opportunity that the planner in her won't pass up. "It's too big, exciting and interesting for me not to reach out and grab it," she smiles.