Talking yourself out of a job
A view from Maisie McCabe

Talking yourself out of a job

Sometimes people do their jobs so well that the end result is they don't have one any more.

That sort of predicament can arise inadvertently for marketers when the brand they have piloted soars so high that it attracts the attentions of an acquirer as well as customers. Obviously, there are some cases where that was the grand plan, when the ultimate aim was a sale rather than building a business for the long term; but, often, it’s a side effect of being brilliant.

So spare a thought for EE brand director Spencer McHugh, who confirmed he will be following his former boss Pippa Dunn out of BT after the telecoms and TV giant’s purchase of EE back in January. In February, BT surprised investors and marketing commentators alike when it announced it would retain the EE brand. At the same time, it promoted EE director Noel Hamill, who was previously responsible for sales and commercial, to managing director of marketing. The changes appear to have prompted the ambitious McHugh to reconsider his position.

As I wrote when the BT and EE deal was first announced last year, Dunn, McHugh and their agencies pulled off the impossible by creating something that was genuinely worth more than the two brands that preceded it. Instead of adding the targeted million customers by the end of 2013, they managed two million. Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Bacon ads, combined with partnerships with everyone from Glastonbury to Wembley, firmly established EE in British culture. 

McHugh doesn’t do anything as vulgar as credit his departure to the new structure, of course, but says now "feels like the right time for me to pass on the reins as I look for a new challenge". Moreover, with successes such as Orange Wednesdays and the T-Mobile "Royal wedding" behind him even before the rebrand of EE, McHugh won’t be worried about finding a new role. And he’s not off until the end of July so gets a last hurrah at Worthy Farm – although against the backdrop of those overheating power bars, he might not be free to completely relax.

Given BT’s stated commitment to EE, it appears that Saatchi & Saatchi won’t need to put together its telecoms case-study deck any time soon. After all, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s work for BT has a very different look and feel. MEC, which added the T-Mobile account to its Orange business when the two brands came together in 2011, might be more worried given large companies’ propensity towards consolidating their media accounts. MEC is unlikely to repitch due to its global relationship with Vodafone but could staff an EE team working inside its sister shop and BT partner Maxus.

But wherever EE finishes, everyone concerned can be proud of looking after it well during its journey.