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The naked truth is that it's not easy reliving the past

The departure of the likeable and clever (if modest) Brad Fairhead from Hypernaked provides yet another "key date" on the timeline of its already complicated company history.

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There seems little point slaughtering a sacrificial beast and inspecting its entrails to see what went wrong at Naked – while its star once burnt very brightly indeed, it inevitably dimmed and attempts to rekindle it have proved largely futile.

Fairhead was parachuted in two years ago when the once-pioneering Naked was merged with its sister digital agency Hyper, which he was then successfully – if quietly – running. He brought with him his management team who, for the time being at least, are still there but whose loyalty to their former boss is strong (and, in my opinion, admirable).

Their task upon arrival was not an easy one – Naked had been petering out for years as fashions changed away from comms planning specialists and it had notably failed to keep up with them. The revolving door spun continuously on its axis.

The injection of Hyper to create the new agency was born both of necessity (Naked needed propping up) and a hope that it would marry the residual fame of the Naked brand and the digital strategic credentials of the solid but obscure Hyper.

Although the resulting concoction was not quite a mixture of oil and water, sadly it was also not a particularly heady brew either – an outcome not entirely unfamiliar to the occupants of 101 New Cavendish Street, for whom similar pain was felt following the merger of Dare and MCBD.

At least Dare seems to have finally ridden out the worst of it; for Hypernaked, the question remains: ‘Whither?’

The parallels between Hypernaked and Dare are not just superficial – both had foreign parent companies that suffered financial difficulties during the latter part of the last decade (and subsequently emerged with suitably daft names – Enero and Vision7 respectively). But at least Dare seems to have finally ridden out the worst of it; for Hypernaked, the question remains: "Whither?"

The loss of the Foster’s business at the end of last year, for which Hypernaked produced a series of shorts that resurrected old comedy shows for the Foster’s Funny website, was a real blow. But while the shorts were undoubtedly a cute idea, critics argued that the average Foster’s drinker was too young to remember Vic & Bob from the late 80s. They were hardly going to attract new drinkers.

For the Naked co-founder and co-chairman Jon Wilkins, Fairhead’s departure provides the opportunity for the business to go "on its next stage of development" (yep, another one). But in a neat parallel, the agency scene, much like the comedy circuit, has moved on and past triumphs are sadly not that easy to recreate.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com          
@jezzalee

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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