Big vote of confidence for W+K London as Portland HQ makes Neil Christie and Ian Tait partners

It’s been something of an annus mirabilis for Wieden+Kennedy London as the recently high-flying agency has seen the departures of biggest account Nokia (with attendant ten per cent redundancies) and the Guardian, one flagship account, Honda, cut back in the wake of the tsunami in Japan and another, Nike, award its plum Europe assignments to W+K Amsterdam.

Some global agency managements would be handing out extra lines, preparing P45s maybe. But Wieden+Kennedy Portland, HQ of the all-conquering creative network, is made of braver stuff and has made up London managing director Neil Christie (pictured) and interactive creative director Ian Tait to partner status.

This is a select group which already includes W+K London’s Honda team of creative directors Tony Davidson and Kim Papworth. Portland managing director Tom Blessington and executive creative director Mark Fitzloff have also been made partners. By the by, isn’t it refreshing that the likes of Christie and Blessington are managing directors, not big shot-sounding CEOs?

Dan Wieden says his agency is: “Very picky, very slow and deliberate when it comes to adding new partners,” and that the four new ones “bring fresh perspectives and skill sets to critical areas this agency and this industry will face in the years ahead. I am thrilled. It is like our brain and our heart just made a growth spurt.”

In many ways W+K london’s biggest problem is W+K Amsterdam, home not just to Nike but also Coca-Cola and Heineken. W+K is also using Amsterdam as its bridgehead into Eastern Europe, recently winning the whopper Beeline telecoms account. Amsterdam has also recently gone on a creative hiring drive, luring creatives not just from London (why do they want to leave the UK? Mystifying really) but as far afield as San Francisco.

So there are still challenges ahead for W+K London, partners or not. The agency is unlikely to make it into Campaign/Nielsen’s Top 20 for 2011 when the numbers come out in February next year and an agency of its stature really should be firmly ensconced towards the top of that list.

But with the recent appointment by dairy firm Arla Foods and a big new campaign coming up for mobile network 3, the agency has the opportunity justify the faith of its bosses and escape, to a degree anyway, from the shadow of Amsterdam.

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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.