News People: In the hot seat - Iain Sanderson

The Dynamo founder tells James Thornton why it pays to get rid of the "bull".

At the beginning of Dynamo's 15th year in SP, founder and chairman Iain Sanderson clearly has succession management on his mind. He has appointed three thirty-somethings to the board on the two-fold rationale that "the people in front of the clients know the business best and are therefore the best to take it forward", and "I was in my 30s when I started Dynamo, and who am I to say they're not as good or better than I was then."

Sanderson is keen to stress the time served by the three - Richard Barrett (director for client service standards), Jan Bates (director of resources) and Simon Goodall (director of marketing) - have between them racked up 20 years at Dynamo. The agency prides itself on its retention rate, and Sanderson points to a policy of three-month sabbaticals every three years as one of the reasons for this.

But Sanderson is less keen to acknowledge that the three directors take over, in part, from Nick Cunningham, the former development director who left in the autumn. Cunningham joined Dynamo when it opened its doors in the early 1990s, and was widely tipped to take over from Sanderson.

The departure was amicable: "Nick has been in the industry around 15 years and he felt that it was time to take a complete break," he says.

Sanderson set up Dynamo in 1990, in the middle of the recession. Since then, he has built an agency that boasts 80 staff and a client list that includes Heinz, Sainsbury's and Budweiser.

The key to longevity and success has been a pragmatic and realistic approach, he says. "Our first high point was winning a project from Coca-Cola in our third month of operation. They said one of the main reasons we won was because ours was the only pitch that was easy to read. We made it clear and simple: there's enough bull in this industry without telling a client what they already know about themselves. We tell them what they don't know."

This attitude has paved the way for Dynamo International, a network of 15 agencies worldwide associated with Dynamo. The partnerships have brought in work with the likes of Unilever, Electronic Arts and Danone.

Elsewhere, Sanderson aims to keep the creative coming. "Ad agencies used to come up with the strategy, but more often we are coming up with the big concepts from which the advertising is flowing. So the challenge is to keep coming up with the big ideas." Expectations are high for his three proteges, then.


1990-present Founder and chairman, Dynamo

1989-1990 International director, FKB

1988-1989 Director, Communicator

1987-1988 Account director, FKB

1985-1986 Product manager, Bristol-Mayers

1984-1985 Assistant brand manager, RHN Foods


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