Why do some start-up agencies make it while others fall on their noses?
Is it genius, grabbiing the zeitgeist or just luck?
My friend Paul Simons would say it’s about good planning and the right line-up. The success of his agency Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson (yes, there were a lot of them) would seem to support his case. He’s written here that a key element in this was hiring account man Carl Johnson (now boss of Anomaly) late on in the agency’s gestation. This gave it two suits which meant that number one suit Simons could spend more of his time schmoozing prospects and bewitching the trade press.
Anyway, a London start-up from back in 2006, now called HMDG but then called Hurrell & Dawson after two of the founders Nick Hurrell (pictured) and Neil Dawson, has rebranded itself as Enter. Hurrell and Dawson were high-up suits at M&C Saatchi before striking out on their own.
Enter tells Campaign it plans to have “a different conversation with businesses and brands about how they evolve and communicate.” Not sure you can have a conversation with a brand but there you go. The new Enter seems to be a consultancy with added creative bits. Good luck to them, but this probably isn’t where Hurrell and Dawson thought they would be seven years on.
Back in the day, before the ad world was dominated by big holding companies, start-ups were ten a penny but it was far from obvious which ones would succeed and which wouldn’t. With hindsight, for example, it seems obvious that Bartle Bogle Hegarty would succeed – but it wasn’t.
The three were certainly well-regarded by those who knew them but far from famous. They had comprised the top management at TBWA London, an agency that never really achieved lift-off despite John Hegarty’s famous animated campaign for Lego. Yet, as BBH, clients including Audi and Levi’s beat a path to their door.
Another now-famous start-up was Wight Collins Rutherford Scott (WCRS). This, in contrast to the rather more measured BBH, launched with a tremendous hoo-ha although clients probably didn’t have a clue who they were. Front man Robin Wight (left) had been the creative director at something called Euro Advertising, whose only account seemed to be Audi (in pre-BBH days).
When I was news editor of Campaign (we really are going back a long way now) Robin used to ring me up most press days to extol the merits of the agency’s latest press ad or poster for Audi – with mixed results in terms of coverage. Charles Saatchi used to do the same but Charlie usually had a story.
But that didn’t stop Robin (never exactly short of chutzpah) from cheerfully lecturing the likes of BMW and Orange on why they needed to “interrogate the brand” from his new vantage point of WCRS (still four guys most people had never heard of). And it worked.
Maybe this was indeed zeitgeist-grabbing but the elusive spirit of the age went AWOL when Hurrell and Dawson started in business.