Musical chairs continues as Interbrand gains Innocence

So it is all change at the top end of the industry again with news that Omnicom-owned branding group Interbrand is moving closer to sister company Innocence (see News, page 3).

Though they share the same building, the relationship between the two has been loose since Innocence was founded in 2001 to focus on Interbrand’s business from telecoms giant Orange, leaving Interbrand free to continue its work with Deutsche Telecom. The feeling in the industry now is that the smaller, largely homegrown team might be re-absorbed into the bigger business.

By replacing Interbrand chief executive Tony Allen with Innocence founder Jez Frampton, the branding giant is effectively cutting all ties with the former Newell & Sorrell, with which it merged in 1997. Allen is the final link with the management team that John and Frances Sorrell brought to the party when the deal was struck.

By aligning itself more closely with Innocence through Frampton, who continues as chief executive of Innocence as well as taking on a challenging new role, Interbrand gains new energy at a time when, like its rivals, it has been through the mill in terms of redundancies, staff moves and client shifts. Potentially, it also gains a new raft of client types from the Innocence portfolio, such as the Co-op Group’s retail side and even creativity watchdog British Design & Art Direction – a different breed from the more corporate concerns on which Interbrand built its reputation.

Frampton’s shift back to Interbrand has a hint of the Rodney Fitch deal with WPP Group-owned Fitch Worldwide about it. Frampton didn’t found Interbrand as Fitch did the consultancy he returns to – a move welcomed by all in design – but he was managing director of digital offer Interbrand Interactive for a year before he set up Innocence. Now he is viewed as a saviour to put new life into the business.

Frampton isn’t the only person in design to be taking on a new dual role. Vince Frost’s deal with Australian design star Garry Emery leaves him still as principal of high-profile, design-led UK consultancy Frost Design, while taking a key creative role at the newly formed Emery Frost (see News, page 3). Though Frost is moving to Australia, the London team remains in the hands of four newly promoted partners, allowing Frost to retain his influence there while the two groups remain independent of each other.

One of the joys of design is that nothing ever remains the same. Creative people will always find another way of achieving their objectives. Good luck to all involved in these recent shifts. They’re setting new models for design at a time when it most needs it.

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