The hidden persuaders according to The Sunday Times

In The Sunday Times (26/01/14) there was a pull-out section in association with Debrett’s. It listed Britain’s 500 most influential people in the UK today. One of the categories listed was advertising.

The introduction said “Debrett’s…. has carried out exhaustive research among the most significant individuals and institutions in this country to compile a list of its 500 most influential people, the criteria being that each one demonstrates outstanding qualities of influence, achievement and inspiration.” 

The advertising list is an interesting mix of choices, not least of who was not listed. For example Trevor Beattie is first on the list and refers to ‘Hello Boys’ as the work that made his name; well that was 20 years ago and the word is he wasn’t the creator. Compare that with Sir John Hegarty who has been a big influence on the industry for decades, with numerous famous campaigns under his belt and he didn’t make the list. How bizarre that Trevor gets in and John doesn’t. Should have been the other way round.

Another surprising omission for me was the king of Twitter and Facebook – Rory Sutherland. Rory’s sheer volume of tweets should have influenced the team writing their list. Maybe people are getting weary with another message from Rory sitting in the 1st class lounge at T5.

Sir Martin Sorrell gets on the list, however with a strange commentary “Sorrell is said to be the reason why the UK advertising industry is still so independent and animated”. I would have thought one influence of SMS would have been the exact reverse, except if the author meant versus US/French/Japanese groups. However in all things creative the UK remains a global centre and has done so for a very long time.

I suspect SMS will be miffed that only one of his vast stable of agency names makes the list; Grey (Nils Leonard) get a credible mention but none for Ogilvy, JWT, Y&R, any of the media agencies, but some crumb of comfort with Johnny Hornby, again deserved, given WPP has a significant minority stake in CHI & Partners.

As always Omnicom gets a better result with the lovely Cilla Snowball at AMV/BBDO and James Murphy at adam&eveddb.

I was very surprised not to see the Saatchi name mentioned at all, both Saatchi & Saatchi and M&C Saatchi missing; with the latter as a UK based business they are developing a global footprint backing entrepreneurs, something at the heart of this list. By comparison a surprise was spotting Droga5 in the list with Kevin Dundas named. The reason is their UK enterprise has yet to get going from an outsiders perspective whereas the New York agency is on fire. Perhaps this inclusion is based on things to come, we are all waiting with great anticipation.

It was good to see newer names in the list such as Jonathan Trimble of 18Feet & Rising as the younger, independent advertising upstarts do ‘demonstrate outstanding qualities of influence, achievement and inspiration’. The UK advertising industry punches well above its weight globally in terms of creativity and quality, as such it does need constant refreshment to push the bar that few centimetres higher and this mostly comes from the new talent jumping off the cliff and having a go. Long may it continue.   

A final word on the list in the Sunday Times. This is not an easy job for the compilers so even if anyone of us can disagree with some of the inclusions and omissions it is still a good exercise to undertake.



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