ID Comms

So can a creative director really run the agency as Aegis-owned Isobar seems to think?

Isobar in London isn’t the biggest agency in the world although it is an important part of the Dentsu/Aegis-owned Isobar network which has 36 offices around the world and over 3,000 staff.

Neither it is a conventional agency network; it claims to be a new-style agency ‘with digital at its heart’ as opposed to a digital agency.

It also began life as a digital media agency (Christ, this is getting complicated), basically the in-house digital bit of the Aegis-owned Carat media agency network.

Anyway, with all those people (and presumably clients) it must be doing something right.

Back to London then. CEO Penny Herriman is leaving to become global brand director of preppy clothing company Boden and ECD Nick Bailey (left) has been promoted to take her place. Which has led to a debate in Campaign about whether or not creatives make good agency managers.

Bailey himself is a seasoned hand, spending five years as ECD of AKQA in Amsterdam. But Isobar seems to be hedging its bets a bit, bringing in global boss Mark Cranmer (himself an interesting character) as chairman of London too and appointing EMEA operations director Mike Mulligan as London commercial director (which suggests Bailey will share some of his duties with Mulligan).

So which creatives have run agencies, successfully or not? Peter Souter, a former AMV/BBDO creative director now trying to sort out that vale of tears TBWA London, reckons there’ve been a few, listing David Abbott (AMV), John Hegarty (BBH) and Tim Delaney (Leagas Delaney). Going back even further, I seem to recall Jeremy Bullmore as boss of JWT London, although he had lots of double-barrelled account men to help him out.

Nobody would dispute the importance of Abbott and Hegarty to their respective organisations but did they actually run things? Their respective CEOs Peter Mead and then Michael Baulk at AMV and Nigel Bogle at BBH wouldn’t have done anything major without their say-so and they were, indeed, the creative heart of two hugely successful agencies.

Tim Delaney, at times, has seemed to comprise the creative department and management in one although for the past few years he’s been assisted by capable CEO Margaret Johnson.

Abbott (left, now retired of course), Hegarty and Delaney were also willing and ready to meet clients; occasionally even enjoying the process although Hegarty has expressed his irritation with parts of it such as getting-to-know-you or ’tissue’ meetings. He, like the others no doubt, would sooner get on with producing the ads.

And ‘running things’ is as much (or more) to do with dealing with all those infuriating things like people, expenses, client reviews and the junior art director who wants to bring his dog into the office as it is the good bits: producing the work, winning awards, improving your clients’ businesses (now and then) and lunch.

So this is really a debate that’s never going to reach a conclusion.

But it’s quite good fun.

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agency management creative leaders David Abbott dentsu/aegis isobar John Hegarty Mark Cranmer Nick Bailey Peter Souter Tim Delaney

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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