ID Comms

After a week of frenetic moves are million a year advertising creatives becoming the norm?

And able to choose their own currency, GBPs have the edge over dollars and euros at the moment.

Agency finance directors probably wish there was a football-style transfer window in operation for creatives as what WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell recently described as a ‘nuclear arms race’ in creative salaries takes hold.

This is probably a touch over the top (Sir Martin takes assaults on his wallet seriously) but there is certainly a frenetic (and no doubt expensive) race underway to grab the best creative talent. At such times the aforementioned finance directors and their CEOs will be anxiously wondering if they’ve landed a Sergio Aguero (good) or a Fernando Torres (not so good).

A combination of historic low levels of recruitment and a sudden emphasis on creativity (or engagement as Sir Martin calls it) will certainly be forcing up the salaries of lucky recent movers.

Just this week we’ve had Y&R New York’s Stuart Harricks (pictured) and Siavosh Zabetti (a much-garlanded creative from DDB Paris at just 24) joining agency of the moment Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam and DDB London luring back Matt Lee and Pete Heyes as creative directors from The Red Brick Road to help plug the gap left by four top creatives who were recently poached by DLKW Lowe.

DLKW Lowe parent Lowe & Partners launched another raid this week, in Spain this time, to pinch five creatives headed by Chacho Puebla to boost its Lola (Lowe Latina) agency in Spain.

At Y&R New York (which has suffered a fair amount of creative and other turbulence recently including losing CCOs Scott Vitrone and Ian Reichenthal to W+K’s New York outpost) Harricks was the global CD for LG and also worked on the US Olympic Committee. He joins W+K Amsterdam as a creative director.

Boy wonder Zabetti joined DDB Paris in 2007 since when he has produced a billboard powered by oranges for Tropicana, a full-scale Wii video game for Henkel, a 15 minute interactive animation film for an anti-smoking campaign and a book of Facebook memories for French mobile provider Bouygues. At DDB he won four Cannes Lions, a One Show Pencil, two Webby awards, several Young Guns awards, and two D&AD nominations.

In 2011 Creativity & Advertising Age magazine listed Zabetti among its ‘Creatives to Know’. Fans had better get a move on, at this rate his career could be almost over as he’s done just about everything.

DDB’s new hires Heyes and Lee left DDB to join The Red Brick Road in 2007. At TRBR they worked on award-winning campaigns for Magners and ITV marketing body Thinkbox. In January this year TRBR agency merged with its digital sister agency Ruby having lost creative director Justin Tindall, DDB UK’s former head of art, who left to join Leo Burnett in November 2010.

So it looks like TRBR will be out in the market soon too although, as an independent, it may lack the financial firepower of Omnicom-owned DDB and, with reference to the DDB departures to DLKW, Interpublic-owned Lowe.

W+K is independent too of course but, as the world’s hottest creative network (with Ansterdam now challenging Portland as the powerhouse office) it can probably take its pick of the world’s top creatives without breaking the bank.

A spell at W+K is becoming an essential on your CV if you want to be really rich and famous.

Back in the early 1980s Saatchi & Saatchi copywriter Geoff Seymour (who died in 2009) became London’s first £100,000 a year star creative (equivalent to at least £500,000 now). At the time Charles Saatchi (who had always been a pretty high earner himself) was happy to shiver the timbers of his competitors by letting them all know it. The sum of £100,000 became known in adland as a ‘Seymour.’

Today’s agencies will no doubt be a little more circumspect but there seems little doubt that millions of this, that or the other currency are washing around. Veteran former M&C Saatchi creative director Graham Fink, who would probably have known Seymour in his youth, almost certainly landed such winnings when he surprised everyone by joining Ogilvy & Mather as creative head of its Chinese operations back in May.

O&M is owned by Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP. So they’re all at it really, whether they like it or not.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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