Growing up at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, it’s about as likely that Lord John Townshend, the genial chairman of Now, set the snares for the rabbits in the kitchen garden as he did plant smoke bombs to prevent moles digging up the croquet lawn.
But this week we learned that Townshend had "snared" Larissa Vince, the managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi, as the chief executive of his agency.
Now has been through a period of considerable turmoil over the past few months with a wholesale change of its management team. In December two of its founding partners, Melissa Robertson and Kate Waters, announced their departures (the other founder Mark Lund parachuted far earlier in the agency’s seven-year existence). A few months later its chief creative officer Remco Graham also left, with Ben da Costa drafted in to replace him. It has also just been revealed that Laura Chamberlain, its managing director, is off.
In attracting someone of Vince’s calibre (full disclosure: she is formerly of the Campaign parish and I’ve known her for nearly two decades), Townshend appears to have pulled off quite a considerable coup given this upheaval. The agency only scored a 4 in this year’s Campaign School Reports and, despite receiving a 7 the year before, has never really scaled the heights that it promised.
There have been some nice enough campaigns – recent creative highlights include the award-winning #OutofOffice campaign and some sweet New York Bagel films – but the new business machine has never really kicked into gear. It’s ticked along, nicely enough, but never really troubled the bigger players.
Now this is where Vince comes in – a new business machine as well as capable agency leader, she has successfully led the Direct Line business and won Britvic for Saatchis, and is a popular face among the intermediaries. So while the benefits for Townshend are clear, what could be in it for her (a slug of equity aside)?
A CEO position was the next logical career move – but a chance to turbo boost Now’s new business efforts must be top of her list (and perhaps a chance to get closer to the work – the higher up the large agency food chain you go, the more distant you can sometimes get from the output). Perhaps it is also indicative of her hedging a bet on the future of advertising being in the independent sector, and away from the ties of the control structures of the agency behemoths?
Either way, the energetic Vince will want to make an impact – and fast – to see a return on her risk. In that regards, both her and the lordly Townshend are aligned, and that's as good a start as any (and she might also be able to sort out the drainage in the lower field).
Jeremy Lee is consulting editor at Campaign