Dave Buonaguidi is being typically male about having a cold. We’ve
no sooner shaken hands than he’s popping Strepsils like they were
Tic-Tacs and I hear myself offering him some cough medicine.
Over-familiar it may seem but he has such an affable manner, you can’t
I’d canvassed opinion before the interview and everyone said the same
thing; Buonaguidi is an incredibly bright and genuinely nice bloke. At
34, the joint creative director of St Luke’s is old enough and
experienced enough to be respected by his peers yet young enough to be
able to play pool with the junior creatives without them worrying that
they’re competing with the boss. His enthusiasm and endearing lack of
cynicism is such that at one point I have to remind myself that this is
someone who has spent more than 15 years in advertising - he’s not a
19-year-old creative who’s got his first job.
So why is a creative hot shot appearing in Campaign’s media pages?
Buonaguidi is packing up his art bag, waving goodbye to the agency world
and heading for media land as the creative director of Channel 4.
Channel 4 may be a bit of a culture shock to one used to the
pool-playing, inventive, employee-owned St Luke’s, but Buonaguidi is
insistent that he’s not about to force colleagues to roam the building
with their lap-tops and mobiles in a rucksack.
’Everything we’ve done at St Luke’s has been to make the work
If anything, at Channel 4 it’s going to be me that has to collaborate
more than ever. We’ll all learn from each other. I feel like I’ve just
left college and I’m going into a job I know nothing about,’ he
’I’ve no idea how the station works internally but I’ll try to get
everyone to look at things from a different perspective. I’m absolutely
terrified, but that’s good.’
It’s that fear of ’what am I doing’ that has prompted Buonaguidi’s move,
not a yearning for more money or an ego boost. ’If I was in this for
money, I’d never have set up St Luke’s. Neither am I doing it because I
want a bigger chair. It’s for the challenge. I remember the feeling we
had when we set up St Luke’s in 1995. To get anything like that again
makes me feel so lucky. It’s like getting an invite to the party of the
year,’ he says.
Half-Italian and half-Danish, Buonaguidi’s career in advertising started
when he graduated with a degree in art from Epsom School of Arts. In
1984, he partnered the copywriter, Steve Girdlestone, and joined TBWA.
Then, within the year, they moved to WCRS where they fell under the
creative directorship of Steve Henry and Axel Chaldecott, who spotted
and nurtured their talent.
In 1988, when Henry and Chaldecott left WCRS to set up Howell Henry
Chaldecott Lury, Buonaguidi and Girdlestone were the first creative
hirings. Buonaguidi split from Girdlestone and HHCL in 1991 to join J.
Walter Thompson, before returning to HHCL to partner the copywriter,
Naresh Ramchandani. A year later, Buonaguidi and Ramchandani were
poached by Chiat Day to be joint creative directors.
Chiat Day’s transformation into St Luke’s challenged the industry’s
perceptions of how an agency should be structured. In 1995, Chiat Day
merged with TBWA and the London agency broke away, taking most of its
clients with it to form the industry’s first co-operative, St Luke’s.
Last year, the agency announced it was splitting into three divisions
(Campaign, 25 July 1997), with Buonaguidi and Ramchandani heading the
unit developing ideas mainly in TV programming and features. Nothing
appears to have come of this yet, however.
’When we set up St Luke’s, we wanted to get out of advertising. We
discussed what we wanted to do and the TV programming idea came up. No
creative director I’ve worked under has been satisfied with ’just an
ad’. It’s the communication of a brand,’ Buonaguidi says. Channel 4’s
marketing director, David Brook, agrees. ’Dave’s experience will enable
him to encompass print advertising and new media as well as on-screen
activity,’ he says. ’We need key creative people to lead our talented
creative department. It should be more creative than a traditional
Buonaguidi will take up his post in November. ’I don’t even know if I’m
expected to wear a suit - that’s how little I asked about the job,’ he
says. ’Channel 4 rang me the other day and said, ’We don’t know where to
I had to say, ’Don’t worry about it. I haven’t had my own desk for four
THE BUONAGUIDI FILE
1984: TBWA, junior creative - art director
1985: WCRS, junior creative - art director
1988: Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, art director
1991: J. Walter Thompson, art director
1992: HHCL & Partners, senior creative - art director
1993: Chiat Day, joint creative director
1995: St Luke’s, co-founder and joint creative director