Ian Darby: The future looks bright for ad entrepreneurs
A view from Ian Darby

Ian Darby: The future looks bright for ad entrepreneurs

The presence of Leagas Delaney in the story alongside this column is reassuring. It shows that an agency can survive creating Campaign's "Turkey of the Year" (2010's Giovanni Rana pasta calamity) to impress 100 per cent of the clients it presented to in 2011. It also demonstrates that a long-established independent player is more than capable of holding its own in the market.

At Campaign, we love the thrill and excitement of the new. The burnished shine of the start-up. Yet there's something to be said for longevity too. Inevitably, there comes a time, as Ian Millner of Iris wrote in an excellent recent Campaign blog, when a start-up faces a choice: to sell or not to sell. Or, as an alternative, to sell off a little bit to a minority investor and await the outcome.

It's not that relinquishing independence is wrong or bad for creativity - just look at what Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R has achieved here or the Dentsu-owned McGarryBowen in the US. Thankfully, though, for the sake of variety, there are cussed, determined owners who just can't let go - out of joy for what they do, emotional reasons or just because they love hard work and want to shape their own business and destiny.

Leagas Delaney's Tim Delaney is certainly in this category, Robert Saville at Mother also; and the grandaddies of them all, Nigel Bogle and Sir John Hegarty at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, guard their agency's independence with a determination so complete that it will celebrate its 30th anniversary later this year.

The industry is rightly proud of entrepreneurs who combine business acumen with a love of advertising. And I reckon more will emerge in the next couple of years, in part due to tax breaks and other sweeteners from the government cookie jar.

A key question, though, relates to the make-up of the ad entrepreneur of the future. They look set to emerge from a broad range of disciplines, coding and technology as much as art college or university, which could provide a welcome boost to diversity in the agency world.

More encouraging still is the involvement of the ad business in the drive to revive apprenticeships (this week is National Apprenticeship Week). Twenty-two IPA member agencies have committed to taking on apprentices and this seems not just a worthy project but also a call to arms to talent with the potential to learn the advertising business from the bottom up.

Bogle and other notables ascended through the ranks from the postroom and it's exciting to witness a structured version of this "own bootstraps" ethos that I hope will result in at least one apprentice launching their own start-up within the next few years.

Claire Beale is away.

Topics