Tony Regan, the quiet co-founder of the dynamic media operation Michaelides & Bednash, is upping sticks and joining the management line-up at New PHD with the fancy title of brand strategy director.
It's hard to imagine how this easy-going but understated figure is going to fit in with Jonathan Durden, Nick Horswell and David Pattison, the three blustering partners of New PHD, and his feisty management cohort Morag Blazey. But perhaps his ability to blend in will ensure his longevity at the agency.
Regan has been appointed to fill the hole left by Jon Wilkins, who left New PHD in July to set up the creative communications agency Naked with colleagues John Harlow and Will Collin. Regan is clearly an important component of the partners' succession plans as they each become less involved in the management hub of the agency - Durden and Horswell have become chairmen and Pattison is preoccupied with trying to put together a global Phd network.
Those who know Regan, however, point to his ability to put in place processes and systems to help others harness their creative and strategic skills.
Durden says: 'He's not a creative person, he's a very good strategic brain.'
Regan himself makes it clear that his role will be to nurture people rather than dictate. He says: 'I will be awakening the creativity that exists in lots of people, enabling them to have the confidence to use that ability.' He refers to the agency moving into its third stage of development, with the second era being its maturation following its buyout by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
He explains: 'Stage three is about being confident, recognising the importance of creativity once again and being less preoccupied with achieving scale.'
Some people may point to Regan's lack of management experience, but Durden is confident that he will adjust well to the much larger outfit at New PHD. 'He has a burning desire to work with large groups of people and we have absolute faith that he can do it. He's responsible for the planning product across all the groups, which is our core competence.
Morag is responsible for the people and running the machine,' Durden says.
It has been hard for some people to break into the strong New PHD culture but Regan, having worked at HHCL & Partners and then M&B, seems to fit.
He says: 'I like to be in a strong culture and it's very important in our business to have one.'
Regan becomes quietly evangelistic when he talks about consumer relationships and the buzz he gets from his job. Referring to his role in helping George Michaelides develop a media strategy at HHCL in 1990, he enthuses: 'I loved being connected to consumers and doing research, but I also loved looking at how the consumer got connected to things.'
His interest in what makes consumers tick goes back to his early career; when he graduated from university, he thought a creative job in advertising would be interesting. He fell into market research, working for a company called Jones Rhodes, which he found a useful marketing apprenticeship.
He then moved to Cogent in an account planning role, but found himself tagged with his research background. 'It wasn't the best experience of account planning,' he recalls.
Michaelides recognised Regan's strong marketing background and saw him as someone who would work well with the creative teams within HHCL. Rupert Howell, the chief executive of Chime and founder of HHCL, remembers Regan as 'one of the world's nice guys, very bright and sensitive with research and very credible with clients - smart too'.
Regan became a founding director of Bullet Media, HHCL's joint venture with the Media Business, on the back of winning the TSB account independently.
From there, he became a co-founder of M&B. Asked if he would have liked to have had his name above M&B's door, Regan says: 'I wasn't bothered at the time. George and Graham had bigger shareholdings than I had and they had bigger reputations in the industry.'
Along with his name not being on the door, Regan seems to have been a quiet presence at M&B, particularly in recent years.
He says: 'At M&B we were going through a transition, with the company being reinvented and the offer being transformed. We have moved towards being more accepting of project work than we have before, which I guess means there's less of a profile for the work.'
Whether Regan will be propped up against New PHD's bar playing his accordion within a few months remains to be seen, but Regan's subtle ways have earned him a reputation that the agency's partners are keen to exploit.
THE REGAN FILE
1986: Jones Rhodes, market researcher
1988: Cogent, account planner
1990: HHCL & Partners, media strategist
1991: Bullet Media, founding director
1994: Michaelides & Bednash, co-founder and managing partner
2001: New PHD, brand strategy director.