Just as rumours were beginning to circulate that start-up Hurrell & Dawson was in trouble after only a year, the agency announced its creative and media partners to herald the launch of its “full-service” model.
Zed Media managing director Greg Grimmer is joining as its third partner to lead its expansion into communications planning and media buying, while Al Mosley, of Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam, becomes the agency’s creative director and fourth partner.
Launched last October by former M&C Saatchi Europe chairman Nick Hurrell and former TBWA/London chairman Neil Dawson, the agency has rarely been out of the headlines. But it has been the promise to “do things differently with a fully integrated approach to communications”, rather than a string of new business wins, that has taken up most of the column inches.
The arrival of the new partners is likely to lead to a name change, with both getting their names above the door. One advertising executive says: “The serial addition of partners makes the agency sometimes look a bit spurious, to what otherwise should be a first-class outfit run by two well-known and well-respected industry names.”
Pressure to succeed
Another source adds: “The amount of publicity they have engendered without winning any kind of signature client puts a lot of pressure on the agency to succeed, and to succeed fast.”
Many, however, feel that it is unfair to write off the agency after only 12 months just because it actively courts the media. One industry insider says: “The publicity machine has only just started with Hurrell, the world’s greatest frontman, and Grimmer will now complement that.
“But Hurrell also happens to be from that generation of Saatchi account men who are simply the best, and combined with the superior planning skills of Dawson the agency has got one of the best squads in town.”
Hurrell admits that publicity has helped attract not only clients but also “top talent” to the agency. Having been with the Saatchi brothers for 21 years, he started the agency with Dawson without a launch client. It has been on some high-profile pitches, including mobile phone network 3 and Fox’s Biscuits, but has failed to convert these into wins. Its client list includes Auto Trader, International Red Cross, St Pancras International and the launch campaign for IPC Media’s Look.
Beattie McGuinness Bungay partner Andrew McGuinness says: “The agency had a bit of a false start, when a lot of its energy went into the big prize that [mobile network] 3 could have been, and the fact that it did not have a creative partner in place. But it is now a group of four very talented people who are a force to be reckoned with.”
However, doubts continue about its ambitions to offer media buying to clients. As Pete Edwards, who launched his communications planning agency Edwards Groom Saunders in 2005, points out, when an agency offers both creativity and planning combined with buying, it can end up with some rather skewed buying decisions.
“It can compromise objectivity. If an agency were to do a volume deal with posters then why will it not be inclined to push posters as the advertising medium?” he asks.
Hurrell says that the agency’s intention is not to give the likes of Group M a run for its money, but to “present a different way of working”.
He adds that its approach to clients’ problems is simple: “We create a bespoke team of experts around each brief. In that team we assemble a range of skills drawn from advertising, direct marketing, media, PR, publishing and branded content, as well as from newer disciplines such as interactive and digital.”
The ad industry will be watching Hurrell & Dawson closely. Hurrell says: “If after five years our full-service model is not working we will stop doing it.”