MEDIA: HEADLINER - Opposites Wilkins and Blazey display teamwork at New PHD/They’re very different, but these MDs make a strong team. By Eleanor Trickett

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.

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

over instantly.

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.


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