The BDDH management team moved swiftly to plug the gap left by Awdry's defection to BMP DDB. Hastings will start in April, the week after Awdry's departure.
Nigel Long, the chief executive of BDDH, confirmed that the agency had been looking to raise its creative bar for a while. "We've been looking for some time for a creative director to help us take the agency to the next level. Nick was our first-choice candidate in terms of talent, leadership and personality," he said.
Despite an impressive 2002 in new-business terms, BDDH's creative output has been the subject of much internal scrutiny. Before Awdry's appointment in April 2001, the agency lacked a creative head for nine months.
Hastings said: "I like the people at Partners, I like their values and I like the way they operate. It's a strong agency that already does an awful lot right but the creative work needs a kick up the backside."
Hastings has spent the past seven years at D'Arcy, where he worked on accounts including Maltesers, COI Communications and Fiat.
He was left without a job at the end of last year following the merger of D'Arcy with its sister Publicis agency Leo Burnett. His counterpart at Burnett, Nick Bell, was given the executive creative role.
However, Bell is now poised to take the creative helm at J. Walter Thompson, leaving a vacancy at the newly merged Burnett agency.
Hastings has a number of creative awards under his belt - his Umbro "blokes in pubs" spot for Euro 96 won a BTAA award in 1996 and poster work also won a gold in Cannes a year later.
Before he joined D'Arcy, Hastings was the executive creative director at Collett Dickenson Pearce.
Partners will hope Hastings' arrival will raise the agency's creative standards in line with its new-business record. Last year it won accounts including the £40 million Citroen account, bmi and the Evening Standard.
Awdry moved to BMP to take on the newly created role of European creative director as part of the agency's attempt to develop its pan-European network.
The Ogilvy & Mather and Grey Worldwide networks are still seeking to appoint creative directors after protracted searches.