So, James [Murphy] and I have left the building. All the founders of Adam & Eve have now moved on… to fish, golf and, I’m excited to say, start new agencies.
But what of the agency we have left behind? What does the end of the founder’s era mean for one of the agencies that has defined the last decade of our industry? Well, I rather suspect, not very much.
Now, I could be wrong. There is a large body of academic research, and analysis in the City, that points to businesses performing better when the founders remain involved. The arguments cited are that founders are inherently more likely to back innovation, drive risk-taking and spend disproportionately on new products and services, because they have the entrepreneurial gene that got them where they are in the first place.
And if I look at our industry, there’s a pretty compelling set of agencies where the presence of one or more founders still gives them an edge. I think of Mother, VCCP and The & Partnership in the UK, and of course Wieden & Kennedy, Anomaly and Droga5 globally.
There’s no doubt that, for some clients, having the founder’s commitment and attention is always attractive and valuable, and inside the agency the founder’s presence helps drive a culture that feels connected to the organisation’s roots, as well as looking forward to its future.
And yet, beyond all this, I firmly believe Adam & Eve/DDB will continue its astonishing journey for some time to come. And I believe this not just because of the amazing leadership team we have assembled and the team behind them already in place. I believe this because being brilliant is just what Adam & Eve/DDB is.
It seems trite maybe to say, but it’s a learned organisational behavior and expectation now. Let me draw a parallel to football clubs, if I may. Recently, I read an article in The Times about why Tottenham Hotspur will always bottle it in the latter stages of any Premier League campaign. The writer argues that it’s simply in Spurs’ organisational DNA.
It doesn’t matter that the Spurs of today contain not one player or coach who was there 10 years ago and they aren’t even playing in the same stadium; they just all know they won’t be really challenging for the top spot. It’s the same with Liverpool and their amazing performances in Europe. It’s just what these teams always do.
The article cites a fascinating study on Silicon Valley by two professors at Stanford who looked at 200 tech start-ups. They say the founders of these companies establish one of several blueprints. The first is the "star" blueprint, where the founders would say: "We recruit top talent and give them the resources to be the best"; the second is the "product" blueprint, where the founders emphasised a "skunkworks" mentality; and the third is the "commitment" blueprint, where the founders created a family-like emotional bond at the heart of the organisation.
Unsurprisingly, these blueprints exerted huge influence on company culture in the early years. However, what really shocked the researchers was how these founding visions continued to exert influence years later, even after the founders had left and the staff had changed.
Origins matters. They serve as permanent signposts to decisions and behaviours. They become the pillars of an organisation’s story and mythology. It’s why you get tissue rejection when new employees don’t value these origins and push against the organisation’s narrative. Just ask José Mourinho how that works out.
And so what organisational blueprint lies at the heart of Adam & Eve/DDB’s DNA? I think it’s a blueprint of "creative respect". Adam & Eve/DDB will always respect the power of creativity to transform a client’s business like nothing else. Not just to improve, but to utterly transform. No other agency has won more global effectiveness awards and that’s why. But the agency will also always respect the clients it works with and their skills, judgments and passions. Adam & Eve/DDB will never work for itself on a client’s business.
And, finally, Adam & Eve/DDB will always respect the brands it helps to build, recognising their differences and unique circumstances. The notion that Adam & Eve/DDB "does a John Lewis" for all its clients is so wildly inaccurate and offensive, it embarrasses those who pronounce it. Foster’s, Marmite, Harvey Nichols, Campaign Against Living Miserably, EA Sports, Great Western Railway and Volkswagen all have their own tones, styles and quite brilliant campaigns.
And so, as we bid farewell to the greatest agency we could have imagined being part of, let alone founding (except our next one, of course), James and I, and Ben [Priest] and Jon [Forsyth] before us, will always shout and applaud and delight in the continued success of Adam & Eve/DDB.
The founding chapter of Adam & Eve/DDB is concluded, but the story has many more to come.
David Golding is co-founder of Adam & Eve/DDB. He and Murphy plan to launch an agency next year once their non-compete arrangement with Omnicom has finished
Tammy Einav on Murphy and Golding
So the day I thought would never come has happened. James [Murphy] and David [Golding] have left Adam & Eve/DDB. After Ben [Priest] retired, we all rallied, because at least we still had these two with us. But now, James and DG [Golding] are gone, leaving behind them the memory of a time when it seemed that every problem could be solved by a steady supply of hot cross buns and Wall’s Viennetta.
So, what size and shape of hole are they going to leave?
Well, a big hole in my heart and daily life, for a start. I have worked with many brilliant people in my advertising career, but James, Ben and DG occupy a special place. We’ve been through so many ups and downs, had so many triumphs and balls-ups, and genuinely had so much fun that there’s no doubt they will always be part of my fondest memories of work. But what will I take away from our last decade together? A decade that has seen glasses frames get thinner and Grenson soles get thicker, and which has taught me so much…
The team is much bigger than the individual
James and DG really are an incredible team. They know there’s so much they can’t do individually, but they can always achieve together. In many ways, they are the classic planner and account man combo, but they are actually much more than that. It’s the secret of their success. They need each other. They taught me that this isn’t just a people business, it’s a gang business, and whoever joins their gang next will be very lucky.
The devil really is in the detail
DG owns the deck. Every pitch, he’d pull the whole thing together and then control the clicker throughout the presentation. The 30 minutes before pitch time always saw a blast radius around DG that we all knew to avoid. Except James, who would constantly harass him about his generic opening and closing charts. Between them, they’d never dream of swanning in at the last minute. They have instilled in all of us the importance of taking responsibility for every part of the process, because no-one is too important or too senior to sweat the details.
Always work harder than everyone else
This is a simple truth of working with DG and James. They’d never expect anyone to do what they won’t. Work all weekend? They’ll be there the whole time with you. Travelling to a focus group in Leeds? Guess who’s sitting on the train next to you? Trip to the factory? James will have his hygiene hairnet on before we’ve even left the agency. It’s a great trait, because people will naturally want to work hard alongside them.
The work solves everything
The last and most important lesson I learned from these two is that the work is everything. When the work is good, the relationships will be good, and the financials will be good, and the future will look good. When the work is poor, none of those things can save you.
The work gives you the joy of your mum knowing what you actually do. The work brings the agency together better than any party or free bar ever can. The work breaks down departmental silos because you only get the best work when everyone contributes. From day one, Ben pushed this, and James and DG got addicted. They will always remain junkies to great creativity. It’s what lights up their eyes and makes James grin his widest smile.
Whatever they go on to do, there will always be a piece of Bishops Bridge Road where these simple lessons are still being learned and practised.
They will always be our founders (aptly biblical), our friends, our family and two of my most favourite people.
Tammy Einav is joint chief executive of Adam & Eve/DDB