Agency hierarchies are a veritable tangle of origami, the more so since the widespread adoption of C-suite titles – even companies with seemingly one employee often have a CEO these days.
This is particularly so in creative departments. Ever since the boys and girls with magic markers decided they weren’t ‘visualisers’ any more but art directors, it’s been hell. To the uninitiated an art director sounds like a company director, of course.
Back in the day Saatchi & Saatchi used to dish out so many ‘directorships’ (cheaper than giving a pay rise or buying them a Ferrari) that when the whole board met, once a year, they had to decamp from the agency. One year they had to hire the Odeon Leicester Square.
Charles Saatchi didn’t mind too much. Everybody knew who the boss was – him.
I recall working on a brochure for an agency, who shall be nameless. They wanted a team photo of all the directors so the photographer turned up in Berkeley Square (whoops) in a pantechnicon the size of a removal van because he needed so much kit.
Now adam&eveDDB is shuffling the chairs (not deck chairs, it’s hardly sinking) in the creative department by appointing Richard Brim as executive director with founder Ben Priest moving up to – you’ve guessed it – chief creative officer. Brim’s partner on John Lewis’ ‘Monty The Penguin,’ Daniel Fisher (below, right, with Brim) becomes deputy ECD, as you do.
One of the other ECDs Ben Tollett stays as just that. But the third, Emer Stamp, is leaving to concentrate on writing her children’s books. Of late this has become a euphemism for just leaving but surely A&E would have liked to hang on to the talented Emer.
A&E is a very big agency these days, of course. It may well rival Omnicom sibling AMV/BBDO as London’s biggest when the end of year figures are publicised, by fee income anyway although, given the absence of a big supermarket, probably not by billings. Waitrose, recently defenestrated from BBH in favour of Tesco, may go some way to remedying that.
But these shuffles are usually a way of hanging on to talent. There’ll be agencies all over London, and further afield, waving big golden hellos under the noses of A&E creatives. And ambitious folk who’ve only met them once in a bar will be wondering if they can presume on such acquaintanceship to lure them into starting an agency.
A&E founders James Murphy, David Golding and Priest know all about breakaways, of course, having departed RKCR/Y&R five years ago to the great irritation of, among others, WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell. With a humungous earn-out to nurture, they’ll be pretty keen ensure adam&eveDDB sticks to its predetermined course, even if it costs them a bit more dosh.