London's newest ECD is the Brit you've never heard of

It's no surprise that RKCR/Y&R looked outside London for its new ECD; but in Toby Talbot, it found a Brit.

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For a moment last year, Toby Talbot was possibly the most wanted man in adland, with several big agencies eyeing him up to fill their executive creative director-shaped holes. In the end, after 15 years working in New Zealand, Talbot plumped for Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, replacing Damon Collins. But why? And who is Toby Talbot, anyway?

So why did you choose RCKR/Y&R?

RKCR/Y&R came out of nowhere quite late in the piece. I had been planning a return to London for some time, so most of my conversations have been with DDB, which, to be fair, was trying very hard to create a European role for me. DDB has a brilliant network and it was going to have to be somewhere great to ever tempt me away.

Yes, I had spoken to a couple of other London agencies, but RKCR/Y&R is a class act. I was used to working with brilliant clients in New Zealand (where Talbot was the group creative director of DDB and regional creative director for DDB Asia-Pacific). It has brilliant clients here. Mark Roalfe is one of the greats of the industry. I've long admired his work. Ben Kay and Alison Hoad are dynamic joint chief executives with strong strategic backgrounds. It feels like a management team where I can add value but also learn a lot.

How do you expect the transition will be from New Zealand to one of the UK's biggest agencies?

It's actually not that different. The pace is fast and furious here, but it is in New Zealand too. It was a big appeal of RKCR/Y&R. There's not a lot of navel-gazing. People just get stuff done and move on. I like that. The output is impressive.

It's funny how people here seem to imagine ad agencies in New Zealand as little tin sheds with a dozen bearded folk in them beavering away on typewriters in a paddock surrounded by sheep. DDB New Zealand has roughly the same staff numbers as RKCR/Y&R, and no sheep as I recall. Or typewriters. But there are one or two beards in the building. It felt like a creative culture I could adapt to easily.

What was the attraction of the UK?

Reuniting with family is a big plus. We originally planned a two-year extended holiday to New Zealand. We stayed 15 years. Then there's the opportunity to put into practice here what I have learned there as an executive creative director. Albeit on a bigger scale.

Such as?

Such as creating ideas that manifest themselves across new channels in interesting ways. There's a real can-do spirit in New Zealand that's infectious, a feeling that anything's possible. And, generally speaking, it is. That's reflected in the work agencies do there. Applying new ways of working with clients who aren't risk-averse. That's one of the reasons I stayed so long.

What was the proudest moment of your career?

Your sister magazine Campaign Asia awarding my previous agency Australia & New Zealand Creative Agency of the Year back in November, and me winning Creative of the Year in my last week in the job felt like a good full stop.

What is your favourite piece of work?

Last year for Steinlager, we suggested to the brewer that it brought back the white can that was only around when the All Blacks last won the Rugby World Cup back in 1987. Through social media, we encouraged Kiwis to think of it as a lucky can, and it really worked. It was the biggest-selling beer during the Rugby World Cup finals. The fact that the All Blacks won it didn't do it any harm either.

How would you describe your management style?

Inclusive. RKCR/Y&R's founding principle has always been "ideas before advertising; ideas beyond advertising". It's what I strongly believe in too. That said, the agency is still known more for its exquisite TV, posters and print than anything else. I want to explode ideas out further. I want to put more focus on that at RKCR/Y&R.

What are your key strengths and what has made you a success?

Hard for me to say. I've been away so long that I won't do that fey English thing and talk about my weaknesses instead. In an attempt to bring a little objectivity into it, I asked my previous chairman and he generously said I was passionate, driven and confident. Works for me.