It is a shrewd move by Paul Priestman to play up the business aspect of the Design Business Association’s remit when he takes over as chairman at October’s Annual General Meeting. That, after all, is where the bulk of current activity in the design industry is and where consultancies arguably need most guidance – hence Design Week’s weekly Design Business page. For the DBA, the clarification of its objectives defines the association’s role in the woolly area of design representation.
Mergers and acquisitions still continue, though not at anything like the same rate as earlier in the year. And with Wolff Olins having now struck a deal with Omnicom, very few of the key creative independents remain as targets for marketing services predators and others. Imagination and Deepend are among the very few “desirables” of stature that come up on the wish-lists of would-be buyers, though neither group is ostensibly up for sale.
However, what we are seeing are a lot of “executive” reshuffles within consultancies. The big one this week is Cordiant Communications Group’s brief statement that John Harrison has stepped down as chief executive of Fitch with immediate effect and will be replaced next month by Enterprise IG director Jane Simmonds. Coming in the wake of job cuts and a profit warning from Cordiant, we can only speculate what the move foretells of the global group’s plans for its design interests. Watch this space.
But there are other examples, not least the two new board appointments at Coley Porter Bell and news that CPB chief executive Amanda Connolly is looking for a new job within the consultancy’s parent, WPP Group, to find a fresh challenge.
Word around the industry suggests that we can expect to see more such shake-ups within the big players. On the one hand, there is evidence that they are keen to redeploy some of the “suits” from their troubled ad agencies into their design and strategy groups; on the other, they are vying to build ever stronger creative teams and we can expect a flurry of activity at the top end here.
Perhaps the most interesting shift this week, though, doesn’t come from one of the big boys, but from independent branding group Ziggurat.
Bernard Gormley’s decision to step down from the chairman’s role to become executive creative director is a bold one. But if, as Gormley believes, it will help rekindle his group’s reputation for great work, won in the late 1980s, it could set a useful role model for the design industry at a time when creativity could do with a boost. We wish him well in his efforts.