Ian Darby: M&C's hiring shows it's serious about big ideas
A view from Ian Darby

Ian Darby: M&C's hiring shows it's serious about big ideas

Spying seemed an attractive lark to a young lad. The glamour of James Bond, in my time played by Roger Moore in his safari suit, resonates to this day.

That might explain why I loved M&C Saatchi's recent recruitment campaign for MI6. My illusions were soon shattered, though. It made clear in no uncertain terms, without resorting to images of sliced-up corpses in body bags, that the spy game isn't all babes and Bollinger.

While the agency won admiring glances for its secret services work, it has, since May last year, been engaged in its own search for an executive creative director. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: replace that international man of mystery, Graham Fink, now thought to be operating out of China.

This week the agency, which has such an illustrious creative heritage, finally filled the position with the appointment of Elspeth Lynn, the ECD at Profero. Not exactly a hiring out of "big ad agency" central casting. But that seems to be the point.

Several agencies, including Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R (which recently appointed Toby Talbot) and McCann London (position still vacant), were on the market for an ECD at the same time. Finding the right candidate has not proved easy. As the M&C Saatchi group chief executive, Lisa Thomas, puts it: "There are a lot of people out there, but not a lot of people who could do this job."

Lynn has a big challenge on her hands, not only because the M&C Saatchi press release positions her as a "visionary, creative leader", but also because there seems a great deal of work to do in improving the agency's creative product. The creative director, Mark Goodwin, has done a fine job in overseeing a stable department since Fink's departure, and work for Dixons, Lea & Perrins and some of the Direct Line spots have impressed. However, Thomas concedes: "What we need is more consistency, more great work. And that includes more brilliant work in our core media. What agency doesn't want to lead the way in this?"

Lynn's appointment looks like a bold, forward-thinking one. She brings at least two standout skillsets to the agency. As the ECD at a non-traditional ad agency, she has real hands-on experience of leading a digital creative department. Allied to this, Lynn also has entrepreneurial spirit, having launched and then sold her Toronto-based ad agency Zig to Crispin Porter & Bogusky in 2006.

Her energy should complement Goodwin's traditional skills, but Lynn's real test will be to build a department that can create great advertising on big clients such as NatWest while also lifting the agency into the realm of delivering, in Thomas' words, "bigger ideas that live in all media".

Claire Beale is away.

ian.darby@haymarket.com

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