The client gushed that Cracknell was urbane, charming and could hold a conversation about business issues - all of which were such rare qualities in the creatives he had hitherto met that the client had become convinced they were incompatible with the very nature of creativity.
Well, Cracknell's critics may argue that his charm and eloquence are more easily identifiable than great ads he's written (Cracknell's strengths as a creative have always been about managing a department and establishing a creative culture). But as Cracknell steps down at Bates, an era ends.
Cracknell is one of the oldest creative chiefs in London. That he's survived well beyond the natural lifespan of most people working in advertising is testament to his passion for the business. But his departure raises some questions about whether the industry is really doing enough to nurture the next layer of creative management and groom a new generation of creatives with a rounded view of the communications industry.
Some agencies (Mother stands out) have fostered creative talent with a real sensitivity to client issues and the broader business landscape.
But finding younger creatives impassioned by and informed about their clients' business or the broader industry is still a challenge.
All too often, creative departments seem disenfranchised from the business world around them - years without proper training and the encouragement to get involved in real business issues have taken their toll. The current fashion for overseas creative talent underlines that something is wrong with our structure (whether it's about the nature of our creatives or the nature of our chief executives is moot). Creative departments can no longer operate in blissful isolation. Allied Domecq has hammered the final nail into Cordiant's coffin not because it is unhappy with Bates' creative product, but because it has no faith in its parent Cordiant's business; the old idea that "it's all about the work" is increasingly off the mark.
These are issues that the IPA is trying to address, encouraging young creatives to engage with the business in a broader context, introducing training for creatives (including, through Project Jericho, fostering greater understanding between creatives and media) and redefining the Creative Directors' Forum.
As Cracknell departs and the industry welcomes the Antipodean posse, the need to invest in the future of our own creative talent is more important than ever. After all, isn't it outrageous that the home of some of the best creative talent in the advertising world seems unable to produce the creative leaders of tomorrow's industry?
- Caroline Marshall is on maternity leave.