After 18 months of humming and hahing, making secret notes on
clipboards and, apparently, asking searching psychometric questions of
its staff, New PHD has installed a pair of managing directors.
Enter Jon Wilkins and Morag Blazey - Bambi and Minnie the Minx. They are
New PHD’s first managing directors, promoted to build the next stage of
the agency’s development. ’We are future-proof now,’ the chief
executive, David Pattison, says.
The pair fall into type straightaway. On a Thursday morning, Wilkins
shuffles in apologetically, bearing cappuccinos. He’s late, but the
combination of coffee, charming repentance and big brown eyes win me
This fails to work on Blazey, who tuts at him briefly before continuing
our conversation. You can’t help but picture Blazey administering the
odd, no-nonsense cuff round Wilkins’s ear.
Although most who know Blazey use the word ’tough’ at least once when
describing her, Campaign has seen her vulnerable side, whimpering on a
train at 7am on the way to a parachute jump.
Blazey dismisses the incident, clearly worried that I am going to expose
her as a wimp (she isn’t - she jumped). ’The most terrifying thing that
weekend was the fact that QPR was playing for its life the following
day,’ she sniffs.
Wilkins is a Chelsea supporter. ’We can make football the focus of our
disagreements,’ Blazey claims. The pair bounce off one another well, and
the three years they have worked together (he joined in 1996, she in
1993) have generated affection.
Wilkins’s route to New PHD was via research. In fact, he wouldn’t be at
New PHD at all, had ’getting a job in research’ been anything like he
thought it would be. ’I got a job at Granada TV and I thought I’d be
doing research for World in Action,’ he admits, blushing at his
’I wound up doing BARB runs. I then went to Disney, thinking I’d be a
real globetrotter, but ended up wearing a giant’s costume at EuroDisney
with kids kicking me up the arse.’
BMP rescued him (though he still doesn’t quite know how, as he had never
heard of the agency before he got the phone call) and helped him hone
his skills into a specialisation in strategic planning, preparing him
perfectly for New PHD.
’My background’s dead boring compared with his,’ Blazey complains,
although her media credentials are as solid as QPR’s defence isn’t.
Airtime selling at TSW (a baptism of fire by anyone’s standards),
followed by a stint at CDP as a time-buyer, got the grubby stuff out of
the way, before she headed to the more rarefied atmosphere of Bartle
Bogle Hegarty as a planner, having been hired by Richard Eyre. She
joined New PHD when there were only 29 people on the staff, compared
with today’s 200-plus.
The creation of the managing director’s post is seen by some as a sign
that Pattison, Nick Horswell and Jonathan Durden are, perhaps, taking
some time out to sit and count their money, but all those concerned
insist the move was made because of the scale the agency has now
And, according to Blazey, ’some new blood at the top was needed to keep
the spirit going’.
So why this particular pair? ’It’s a combination thing,’ Blazey
To define them as good cop, bad cop would be unjust to Blazey who, while
known for her tenacity and intractability, is also incredibly fair and
No, the combination of the fluffy and dreamy Wilkins and the unstoppable
force of Blazey is ideal for New PHD, which needs to think and act like
a big agency without losing the sex appeal it enjoys as a loved-up
breeder of strategic savvy. With this pair, there’s something for
The managing director’s job was never going to go to an outsider, as
Pattison believes in home-grown talent to the extent that he would
rather only ever recruit graduates. ’As a culture, we’re quite hard to
get into, and the further up the company ladder you go, the harder it is
to come from outside. There’s also a risk of diluting that culture,’ he
Wilkins agrees, explaining that he found it very hard to settle in
completely in his first year at the agency. Though he is, to be fair, a
lot less fluffy than he was when he started out in media agencies. Derek
Morris, an old colleague of his from BMP and now the founding partner of
Unity, half-jokes that Wilkins got to where he is now ’by whimpering,
’mother me!’ every time he doesn’t understand something’.
But when coaxed to say something sensible, Morris adds: ’They will make
an incredibly successful partnership. Jonny is all the cute things that
everyone says and Morag is tougher and harder, but they both have
incredibly high standards and their promotion was right for the
Both are wary of those whose shoes they are stepping into, and many
would construe that P, H and D are a tough act to follow. Pattison is
convinced the pair are more than equal to the task. ’We’ve been looking
at our succession management for two years and these two came into their
own, particularly during the Volkswagen pitch earlier this year.’
The whole restructure is typical of New PHD’s cautious approach to its
management. Typical. You wait nine years for a managing director and two
turn up at once.