Media Perspective: PHD has the chance to make changes to reinvigorate itself

Things haven't gone quite as planned at PHD. The London agency that once led the market in terms of its ideas and creative thinking is now struggling to keep its place in a fast-evolving world.

This view may go some way to explain the departure last week of its chief executive, Morag Blazey. In December, she went off on a long-planned sabbatical, only for it to be decided that she shouldn't return. The outcome was perhaps a relief to both parties. There is now the potential for change at PHD. Mike Cooper, the chief executive of PHD Worldwide, sees re-establishing the fire in the London operation as a priority. The creation of an Omnicom Media Group structure in the UK is also a key factor in any future development of PHD. Its chief executive, Philippa Brown, will caretake the PHD vacancy until a permanent successor is found.

Last September, after a number of high-profile management departures, I speculated other senior departures could "be damaging to PHD's future progress". Maybe in the short term, but Blazey's departure now provides the opportunity for a reassessment and injection of new blood.

As for Blazey, a good operator with a passion for the industry (she's put in masses of work for trade bodies, including the IPA), it is to be hoped that she will return. Under difficult circumstances, things didn't work out perfectly, but she helped lead the agency to its award of Campaign Agency of the Year in 2005, and there are many at the agency who are sorry she has gone.

Meanwhile, the PHD hierarchy is looking for a dynamic and exciting new leader. Somebody who can run a successful agency and has empathy with PHD's "pioneering" - slightly daring - DNA. A sort of a cross between the agency founders David Pattison and Jonathan Durden, then. No easy task given there aren't too many of these sorts about.

Naked's John Harlow is such a figure, but is obviously unavailable given his labour of love for Naked in the US. Sadly for PHD, cloning Harlow is currently not an option. Slightly more realistically, Mark Cranmer might fit the bill, and is floating around after resigning his WPP Research International role. Alternatively, Omnicom could go for younger blood and the risk of somebody less proven.

The danger is that in hiring someone who has to get along with Omnicom Media Group management and Cooper (himself only just relocated from OMD in Asia), they end up with a clone, somebody who merely establishes PHD as a weaker version of OMD. This is not the intention, but whoever is appointed will face the challenge of fixing the disconnect between PHD's market-leading positioning and the reality that it too often lags behind the competition. It's a meaty challenge for someone who will always risk comparison with the agency's brilliant founders.