With the departures of David Jones, Hugh Baillie and then Matthew Charlton and Neil Dawson all in the space of a week, 2014 has got off to quite a spectacular start.
The issue of Jones’ many intriguing reasons to quit Havas are explored in more depth in Close Up, but Baillie’s decision to say goodbye to his partners at Hello People and take a job at Grand Union after less than a year seems to show that this particular start-up was a turkey in the first place.
In fairness, the agency recognised that it had not come out with all guns blazing in its Campaign half-term school report, where it awarded itself a lowly but remarkably honest 5 out of 10. But with Baillie now jumping ship, citing a lack of converted new business, it’s difficult not to have some sympathy with the remaining partners, Rachel Hatton and Dave Dye, as Baillie was presumably at least as culpable for failing to attract more clients. Sadly, such can be the life of a start-up in a super-served UK market.
As to the departure of Charlton and Dawson, this came as a surprise to pretty much everyone and maybe including the pair involved. It also sent the rumour mill into overdrive with some particularly juicy gossip about the true reasons for their exit. Either way, something had gone terribly wrong at an agency that launched with big hopes and high expectations (something that sadly can’t be said about the rather vague and nebulous Hello People proposition).
Stripping out BETC London's entire management team was decisive but nonetheless rather startling
At face value, BETC London hadn’t suffered from the same problems as Hello People and, with the backing and support of its creatively lauded and powerful Paris mastership, nor should it have. After a sluggish start, the agency managed to produce some decent enough work and there was a slow but steady trickle of accounts coming through the door. However, the shop appeared to be establishing itself as a domestic plodder rather than an international powerhouse and, sadly for its launch team, this didn’t seem enough for its French paymasters, who expected bigger things from the first component in its nascent network. Some pretty brutal corrective surgery was deemed appropriate and stripping out its entire management team was decisive but nonetheless rather startling.
Insiders say there was frustration at the quality of BETC London’s creative output, and the drive and motivation of the pair to copy the Paris blueprint, while others contend that Charlton and Dawson’s relationship had broken to the point where the agency was dysfunctional. Nonetheless, there is still some industry goodwill for the pair, even if BETC is glad to be shot of them – and their replacements, the little-known Andrew Stirk and Rosie Bardales, may need to make an impression fast if they are to avoid a similar fate.
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