Unconventional thinking comes to traditional ad agency

News that the bastion of traditional advertising, J. Walter Thompson – part of the WPP Group communication services conglomerate – has hired someone in a key senior role who represents the new face of creativity with an interesting track record of original, unconventional and non-traditional thinking.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that JWT has hired Ty Montague, a creative director known for both guerrilla marketing tactics and award-winning TV ads, as chief creative officer and co-president of the firm’s flagship office in New York.

Montague was behind the hoax marketing campaign for a Sega videogame last year that typifies new guerrilla marketing techniques. He hired a man to spend part of his day leaving voice mails for game developers complaining that Sega’s American football videogame caused him to lose control of his emotions. The man also  created fake blogs to spread the word about the "dangers" of the videogame. (I posted some critical comment last month about this marketing campaign.)

The hiring is a sign of how the ad industry is beginning to respond to pressure for change from clients for fresher and original thinking and ideas. Montague follows CEO Bob Jeffrey, who was hired by JWT last January. The Journal reported that Jeffrey has been working overtime to elevate the creative output in many of the agency’s 310 offices worldwide, scouring the globe for creative talent.

Wall Street Journal | JWT Hire Signals Shifting Strategy (no subscription required to view)

In a previous life a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I worked for JWT in London. We’re talking well pre-WPP ownership days, about the time when Ridley Scott was still directing TV commercials. You wouldn’t have labelled JWT "the bastion of traditional advertising" in those days. Part of the advertising establishment, most definitely; indeed, the bluest of the bluest chips. But powerful and original creativity, responsible for some fantastic advertising.

For some examples of really great advertising by UK agencies during the past more than 50 years, visit the History of Advertising Trust Archives.