Stef Calcraft: executive chairman of London Union Plc and owner of Street Feast
Stef Calcraft: executive chairman of London Union Plc and owner of Street Feast
A view from Stef Calcraft

Naked's footprint will be felt for generations to come

Stef Calcraft, a former board member of Naked, reflects on the agency's legacy.

The meeting had been a huge success, bursting with positive energy and excitement on both sides. The client team waved us off full of smiles, and wished us a safe journey back to Edinburgh and onwards to London.

As the taxi drove us through the Scottish Highlands, John Harlow was unusually quiet, uncharacteristically distracted and simply stared out of the window.

"What is it John?" I asked.

"I dunno Stef. I think I need to do my own thing."

"You should...with us," I replied, without even thinking.

He turned, looked at me and smiled.

"OK then."

We shook hands, sat back and both laughed.

The next day he called me and said he was going to leave Rocket, the self-styled punk division of PHD that John had founded and told me I had to meet Jon Wilkins.

And that was it. Naked was born.

The irony for every change agent is that it must also change, or become lost in the new world it inspires

It set the tone for how the company would behave and grow. Instinctively, smart and from the gut.

John was a brilliant, inspirational, creative maverick, who also understood the essential ingredients for success.

He needed Jon Wilkins's extraordinary charisma, strategic grip and commercial nous. And the two of them also knew they needed unquestioned thought-leadership. Enter Will Collin, the third Founder and data-analytics expert, the "brain" of the brand.

This combination of talents was absolutely compelling. They always had an open invitation at Mother and whenever Naked turned up, client and agency pulses quickened. Naked told people things that no one had ever heard before and, in many cases, never thought before.

The status quo was there to be challenged, immediately improved upon and ultimately transformed. At their best - and for the first half of the noughties when Naked was consistently at its best - they shone.

Naked showed the industry a new, boundary-free creative world of brand opportunity. Consequently their media and creative peers, as well as most progressive clients, all became more Naked in their approach.

The ultimate compliment and legacy.

The defining "Naked truth" that "the world of communication is far bigger than the world of advertising" was ground breaking in the noughties. Today, it is more relevant than ever, as are the capabilities the founders embodied.

But the irony for every change agent is that it must also change, or become lost in the new world it inspires. With the explosion of the social networks, transformation of media consumption and competitive encroachment on all sides, Naked was unable to evolve its business model from consultancy to a fully rounded creative communications company.

So, one of the most dynamic and elastic creative brands in the world consequently missed the opportunity to lead the next generation of creative companies which, by rights, it should have done.

However, Naked paved the way.

Add universal creative and production brilliance to applied data analytics, plus the ability to tell people things they won't hear anywhere else, and you have the blueprint for brands and creative companies to thrive today.

As a post script, beyond the immense sadness of missing John Harlow's magnetic presence in our lives, the "Naked ride" we all went on was the most extraordinary fun. It was almost impossible not to end up rolling around laughing in a meeting together.

I remember John, Jon and Will presenting the results of a six-month long development process for a data-analytics software product that was set to roll out across their client business. With three straight faces they unveiled the name to me. It was to be called Naked's Big Tool. I also remember John and Jon telling me about their planned launch in Australia which was to be called Naked Down Under. Genius.

Thank you, Naked. For everything you gave us. The creative communications world may be moving forward without you but your footprint is indelibly left behind for generations to come.

Stef Calcraft is executive chairman of London Union, owner of Street Feast. He is also co-founder of Mother and sat on Naked's board from launch in 2000 until 2008, when Naked sold to Photon Group.