Kelly, a Scot with extensive experience in Asia, is the first person to officially take part in the initiative, which sees senior creatives join Bates CHI & Partners on a temporary basis to work on specific projects. Kelly joined Isobar in 2013 as the agency's first regional ECD and left in August last year. He has also worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, TBWA and OgilvyOne.
In his incarnation as ‘guest chef’, Kelly will have several key tasks, according to Bates CHI & Partners CEO David Mayo. He will work on a number of ‘incubator’ projects for clients including Buick, Intercontinental Hotels and Pizza Hut.
Mayo explained the incubator projects involved small, senior teams on both agency and client side but were "of the size and scale that changes both businesses".
"We have clients asking us to look at specific projects that suit outside the existing scope of work and indeed the regular scope of an agency," Mayo said. "We believe that agencies and agency people can be of great use beyond their job description and Graham's role is to make our good work great."
More broadly, Mayo said he expects Kelly to become “a magnet for new talent” and to “inspire, train and motivate our 600 staff so that every morning they all wake up thinking about our product”.
The latter task forms part of Bates CHI & Partners’ ‘creative cascade’ initiative, which Mayo described as “basically a ‘creative sheep dip’ with a nicer name”. The workshops will take place at every office in the regional network with the aim of building a stronger creative foundation at the agency that stretches beyond the creative team itself.
“We believe that creativity is something that the whole company needs to embrace and deliver—not just the creative department,” Mayo said. “We have 600 people of all ages, skills, persuasions and nationalities and they are all creative. An agency with 600 people waking up thinking about how to make the product better and how to make the agency dig deeper is going to be more effective than an agency that uses their 174 people only.”
Mayo continued: “Our cascade will be a carnival of creativity led by Graham and facilitated by our MDs and CDs to ensure that creativity becomes everyone’s job … For the agency, it will put creativity back at the centre of our everyday agenda. For the clients, [it will mean] more focus and leadership on building their business by maximising their marketing investment.”
Other creatives to have previously signed up in a similar capacity to work on special projects include Andy Blood, who has worked at TBWA and more recently with Colenso BBDO on a freelance basis. Mayo said the programme would be ongoing and that the next ‘chefs’ would cover data, digital activation and social projects.
The six-month timeframe is not set in stone, Mayo said, but was deemed appropriate as a starting period in Kelly’s case. “Six months allows for a beginning, a middle and an end," said Mayo, who cited a few "famous temporary partnerships" that lasted a long time: Hewlett and Packard, Bill Gates and Paul Allen and The Rolling Stones. “Graham is like a cat, but if he likes doing what he does with us and it’s working, there is no end,” Mayo said.
In a statement, Kelly said that “working at an agency that not only recognises change, but embraces it, is very attractive. As is the opportunity to work with Bates CHI & Partners across the region”.
Kelly and Mayo first produced work together at Ogilvy in 1997 on a Guinness account, which was awarded at Cannes. Bates CHI & Partners has been in operation since 2012 and this year rose on Campaign's Agency Report Card.