Creative Exodus from adland to start-ups continues

Seb is Marketing Week’s agency specialist.

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R’s chief executive, Richard Exon, and creative director Damon Collins, who have been at the agency for four-and-a-half years and three-and-a-half years respectively, are set to leave to launch a start-up.

The highly respected pair are set to swap the comfort of the full-service agency, which cites BT, Lloyds TSB and Marks & Spencer among its clients, for the trials and tribulations of start-up life.

The move continues the growing trend of senior creatives and senior client handlers to launch new ventures as they look to unshackle themselves from the bureaucracy and corporate word of the big agencies in favour of a more intimate set-up capable of fostering creativity with visionary clients.

Indeed, RKCR/Y&R especially, has been an incubator for start-ups in recent years, with the agency’s highly regarded trio of James Murphy, Ben Priest and David Golding, chief executive, executive creative director and planning director respectively, leaving the WPP owned agency to set up independent agency Adam & Eve in 2008.

Adland observers will argue this kind of venture has always been part of agency life, but to dismiss the trend as part of a natural cycle is discounting some of the problems agencies need to face up to.

With the economic downturn showing no signs of letting up, agencies are being affected from all angles: smaller budgets, increased competition, and business models that are still far too reliant on ad volume rather than creativity.

The result is that creativity, particularly at some of the bigger agency networks is being stifled and consequently its becoming increasingly difficult to retain the big-name talent that litters the upper echelons of the UK advertising industry.

In January former Cadbury marketing director, Phil Rumbol formed independent agency 101, with Fallon founder Laurence Green to put creativity at the core of its offering, which encompasses traditional and social media marketing. The duo who worked on the successful ‘Gorilla’’ ad for Cadbury, cite French Connection as 101’s founding client.

What today’s announcement continues to show, is that increasingly creatives are wanting to take risks and establish innovative agency models, when plowing away at a big agency may seem like the easier option.