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Paul Lawson plots Burnett breakaway

Spring and we’ve already had the first cuckoo in adland, with news of the Garry Lace Robert Campbell start-up  – which opens its doors on May Day.

Of more substance, if it gets off the ground, is a breakaway being hatched at Leo Burnett. This features Paul Lawson, group managing director of Burnett and Arc, plus his executive creative director Jon Burley. The aim is to set up a full service agency offering advertising, planning and buying ‘solutions’.
This is hardly an original formula. Indeed, it bears an uncanny resemblance to Hurrell & Dawson, the agency set up by M&C Saatchi alumnus Nick Hurrell and former TBWA\London chairman Neil Dawson in 2006. Despite its distinguished pedigree and a name-change, the new agency has not exactly covered itself in glory.
There are some reasons for believing the foul-mouthed but capable Lawson may be more successful, however. Lawson’s attachment to media has more to it than a strategic conviction that agencies must, once again, put the ‘full’ back into ‘service’ by reuniting creativity and media under one roof. He was once a media planner himself, at Allen Brady & Marsh, before deciding, like many before him such as Tim Bell and Rick Bendel, that account management was a better route to the top.
The immediate reason for the breakaway seems to be growing disenchantment with Burnett grupenfuhrer Andrew Edwards. Lawson lost out to Australian outsider Edwards in the duel for the top job after Bruce Haines left 18 months ago. Edwards, it seems, is strong on ‘below-the-line’ but not much else; and the personal chemistry isn’t great either.
So what’s holding Lawson and Burley back? Absence of a planner – a professional one, that is. Edwards Groom Saunders might have fitted the bill perfectly. It had talent, in the form of Jez Groom, Peter Edwards and Will Saunders, but lacked traction as an independent communications agency. Unluckily for Lawson, it was snapped up by Engine in February.
Mind you, there’s always Mark Cranmer, the former Starcom MediaVest EMEA ceo, currently consulting at Aegis. He’s said to be looking for a new challenge. More of that soon…
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