Warner Mu­sic poaches C4’s Allison and Bovill

Campaign UK - - FRONT PAGE - By Gideon Spanier

Warner Mu­sic Group has poached John Allison and Chris Bovill from Chan­nel 4 to head its con­tent stu­dio, The Firepit.

The world’s third-big­gest record com­pany wants Allison and Bovill to de­velop “for­mats and pro­gram­ming” with its ros­ter of artists, which in­cludes Ed Sheeran and Cold­play.

The duo, who were be­hind Chan­nel 4’s 2015 re­brand­ing and “We’re the su­per­hu­mans” for the 2016 Par­a­lympic Games, have been 4Creative’s joint heads since 2012.

The ap­point­ment of Allison and Bovill, who also had stints at Fal­lon and Tbwa\lon­don, un­der­lines Warner Mu­sic’s am­bi­tion to de­velop orig­i­nal con­tent and to work with brands as it seeks rev­enues be­yond recorded mu­sic and stream­ing.

It could po­ten­tially pit Warner Mu­sic against ad agen­cies as well as other record com­pa­nies such as Universal Mu­sic Group, which has forged links with Vin­cent Bol­loré’s Havas.

Sources said Warner Mu­sic is keen to keep col­lab­o­rat­ing with agen­cies.

Allison and Bovill will work with Brian Murnin, who has quit Vice Me­dia to be se­nior vice-pres­i­dent, busi­ness devel­op­ment, at The Firepit.

Max Lou­sada, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Warner Mu­sic UK, said the “dy­namic team” can “ac­cel­er­ate our growth into this ex­cit­ing space”.

Did some­one at Warner Mu­sic read our fea­ture in Jan­uary, “Beau­ti­ful weirdos wanted”, and de­cide to “stop hir­ing samey peo­ple. Stop mak­ing samey work”?

Or did they just run their eye down the list of most highly awarded cre­ative teams in Lon­don and plump for the pair with two lusted-af­ter D&AD black Pen­cils on their shelf?

Ei­ther way, Warner has this week poached the au­thors of that article, Chris Bovill and John Allison, from Chan­nel 4, un­der­lin­ing a new am­bi­tion for the mu­sic la­bel and its Firepit divi­sion to de­liver richer cul­ture-shap­ing con­tent un­der­pinned by broader, com­mer­cially cre­ative craft skills.

A few things raise this story be­yond the in­creas­ingly fa­mil­iar nar­ra­tive about cre­ativ­ity mov­ing in-house (or, in this case, from in-house to in-house). First, there’s some­thing here about the mu­sic in­dus­try and its resur­gence. The busi­ness has been forced to em­brace dis­rup­tion and rein­ven­tion; it’s a few years ahead of the ad in­dus­try in star­ing down apoc­a­lypse and find­ing a new rel­e­vance. Now it’s a busi­ness back in growth (IFPI’S lat­est Global Mu­sic Re­port re­vealed a 6% up­lift in world­wide recorded mu­sic rev­enues), and it’s an in­dus­try com­ing af­ter mar­keters’ money. Yes, Bovill and Allison will work to pro­mote Warner’s tal­ent port­fo­lio – Ed Sheeran, Cold­play – craft­ing mu­sic videos and con­tent. And yes, let’s face it, you can see the ap­peal as an al­ter­na­tive to mak­ing dig­i­tal cam­paigns for beans or in­sur­ance. But the pair will also be cre­at­ing con­tent that meshes Warner’s mu­sic tal­ent with brands and their big bucks.

There are plenty of great ex­am­ples of bands and brands al­ly­ing for mu­tual gain (Go­ril­laz launched its Hu­manz al­bum last month with a mixed-re­al­ity-ex­pe­ri­ence app backed by Deutsche Telekom). But it’s a model that hasn’t yet been suc­cess­fully sys­tem­a­tised in the record-la­bel busi­ness model. Bring­ing tal­ent like Bovill and Allison in-house looks like a smart move down this road and one likely to fo­cus minds at ri­val Universal Mu­sic, which is cur­rently danc­ing round hand­bags with its cousin Havas.

Fi­nally, there’s Bovill and Allison’s ap­petite for the Warner chal­lenge. This pair de­liver Su­per­hu­man cre­ative re­sults. Hot­ter than shit, they could get a job pretty much any­where in ad­ver­tis­ing now. But they don’t want a job in ad­ver­tis­ing. Ad­ver­tis­ing should have a think about that. Do the world’s best com­mer­cial cre­atives still see ad agen­cies as the most ex­cit­ing, re­ward­ing, en­cour­ag­ing, in­spir­ing places to work? I’m not so sure.

The bat­tle is on for cre­ative su­per­stars like Bovill and Allison. This is a war for tal­ent ad agen­cies sim­ply can­not af­ford to lose but look less cer­tain than ever to win.

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