Opinion: Perspective - Forget recession, let's talk Campbell Lace Beta

Thank God. There's a new topic of lunchtime conversation that has nothing to do with the recession. Campbell Lace Beta.

Do you care that Garry Lace and Robert Campbell are launching an ad agency? Perhaps not in the way that you'd care if your dog died. But admit it: it's interesting, even a little thrilling.

Because there's history and drama and because when people have the balls to go it alone, it gives the rest of us a vicarious thrill. Campbell Lace Beta ("Please, please keep a tally of how many people ask you who Beta is," Lace insists) gives us something new to talk about, to pick over, to prognosticate about. And the London ad industry is a little bit more exciting for it.

Which is all quite appropriate meat for our Talent Issue (you might have noticed there's a theme to this week's edition). We know there's a talent crisis in the ad industry, so it's entirely appropriate that two famous talents should choose this week to make their return to the frontline.

But is it a combustible combination or a perfect match? Campbell and Lace are, after all, not just two of the most talented, they're two of the most colourful. Here's what I think. Garry Lace has provided Campaign and the advertising industry with some of its best stories and juiciest anecdotes in recent years. Not all of them have been good for the business, that's for sure, but as the editor of this magazine and as someone who obsesses about what's going on in this business, I'm very glad Lace is back.

But let's be clear. If Lace had just announced he was joining an ad agency, I'd immediately question the sanity of the person hiring him and predict disaster (and brace myself for a threatening lawyer's letter). Because take a look at Lace's CV. This is not a man who should be allowed to run someone else's agency. History suggests that's not a good idea. What Lace is, I think, is a brilliantly talented, compelling adman and a rich character, but one whose entrepreneurial thirst and self-centredness has proved destructive to some of the companies he's worked for. He needs to be running his own ad agency, he needs to be serving his own interests. And I think he will be interestingly successful at both of those things.

All of which means the launch of Campbell Lace Beta is, for the moment, rather overshadowed by the fact of Lace's return to adland. Yet Campbell's decision to throw himself back at the coalface, to take a risk on Lace, to find the enthusiasm to do it all again after having been there, done that so well the first time round at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe is also intriguing. And there's no doubt that Campbell is one of the industry's most accomplished and respected creatives.

The truth is that while both Lace and Campbell have spent their time recently on the fringes of the ad industry, both have advertising in their blood. For all their ups and downs (at Grey, at Lowe, at United), advertising is what they do. And probably launching their own agency is their only option, now, to do advertising as they want to do it.

Good. Advertising needs more entrepreneurs, it needs more people hungrily building their own businesses (as opposed to running local offices of global networks, reporting to New York and having only notional control over the structure and culture of the agency they run) and it needs more characters that give the industry the colour and personality that it's been built upon.

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