A view from Claire Beale, claire.beale@haymarket.com

Editor's Perspective: McCann creative coup is a real game-changer

It wouldn't be the end of the year without a dramatic agency departure.

Or, in this case, departures. So McCann Erickson is parting company with its joint executive creative directors, Simon Learman and Brian Fraser. A statement from the pair says they are leaving after "much discussion over the past few months about the creative direction of the McCann network and the structural changes that are taking place. We do not agree with the new way of working ... and the impact we feel this will have on the London office."

The drama, though, lies not so much in their exit - that, after all, had been the subject of speculation for quite some time. What makes this more than the cliched deckchair rearranging is the coup the agency has pulled off over in the States.

Last week, we reported that Linus Karlsson had quit as a co-founder of Mother New York. This week, he has unveiled himself as the new chairman and chief creative officer for McCann, not just in New York but also in London. Last week, it was inconceivable that someone of Karlsson's pedigree would turn his back on a rich creative agency that bore his DNA to join a big, creatively bland network. This week, it's starting to seem more than interesting.

And, last week, it looked like McCann London, if it did ever change creative guard, would struggle to convince the best creative talent to sign up. This week, the UK agency might find some interesting creatives knocking on its door, keen to work with Karlsson and believing that the agency now has the appetite for a creative step-change.

Because it looks like McCann has not found itself just another hired hand who will talk a good creative game for an eye-watering pay cheque, while making absolutely no difference to the overall quality of the work. Karlsson is a game-changing hire.

Despite the cynics who say he's running to the money because he was frustrated that Mother hasn't sold itself and made its millions, Karlsson has the principles and talent that are far from common among his peers. And I know how much Mother loved him. It's clear from the comments of his partner, Paul Malmstrom, that there is an incredible bond between them (page 6).

All of which suggests that, finally, something quite fundamental might be shifting at McCann. Perhaps this time, it means it. Perhaps this time, it is committed to defining itself beyond size and service.

The agency has a long, long way to go before it will be seen as a creative challenger, and the seven-year cycle that Karlsson's career seems to move to (seven years at Paradiset, seven at Fallon Minneapolis, seven at Mother) may not be enough to see it through. But then if McCann can't change its spots in the next seven years, it almost certainly never will.