FCB’s Brian transplant: van den Hurk takes over from Crawford as chief executive

FCB’s current chief executive and Australia New Zealand chair Bryan Crawford took on a bunch of international responsibility with the FCB network last year. Those responsibilities continue to grow, so Brian van den Hurk, the current managing director, has been promoted to the role of chief executive.

“We’ve evolved our team as we’ve grown and his role has grown alongside that,” says Crawford. “He’s been doing the heavy lifting for some time now. So it’s about making sure his title reflects that.”

When asked if this means Crawford was stepping aside from the New Zealand business, he said “you could interpret it that way and there is some truth to that” because “I’m involved in a number of things beyond New Zealand shores these days”. But he says he’s not going anywhere and will still be based in the Auckland office when he’s not overseas. He categorises his new role as more akin to that of a chairman, so he will still work on senior client relationships, deal with the management team and help set strategy. But the day-to-day running—and growth—of the business will now be in van den Hurk’s hands. And given he’s been involved with the agency for over 20 years, there’s certainly plenty of inside knowledge to call on. 

Van den Hurk spent several years with international agencies in Auckland and Wellington before joining FCB to establish an office in Indonesia. The office quickly grew to handle many multinational and local clients in the banking, airline, tourism and FMCG sectors. Since returning to Auckland with FCB he has worked across categories including retail, brand and social change.

Van den Hurk says he will essentially be doing what he’s been doing for the past year, so it’s not a huge change for him. And because the agency’s clients know FCB’s business is growing and changes to the management structure and agency processes need to be made, Crawford doesn’t believe this decision will come as any great surprise to anybody. He says van den Hurk has played a major part in the team that’s helped grow FCB from an agency of just 20 staff when he started—and 55 when Crawford started in 2006—to the current 230. 

“We’ve got a great team. And this is an ensemble cast. And he’s been part of it for a long time,” says Crawford. 

The agency has also had a great run on the awards front recently and in the last two years it has brought home 18 Cannes Lions, including four golds. The agency also won an IPA Gold effectiveness award for its depression campaign, which van den Hurk was heavily involved with, the first New Zealand agency to ever win gold at this prestigious event. It was also New Zealand’s most effective agency at the 2014 Effie Awards. 

Crawford says promoting from within is always his first preference, and it did just that when it replaced FCB Media’s Derek Lindsay with Simon Teagle (head of media, client service), Rufus Chuter (head of media, strategy) and Angela Spain (head of PR, activation and social). They now report to van den Hurk. And Crawford says he “never really considered any other option” aside from him when it came to taking over. 

Van den Hurk says it’s been fortunate that FCB’s growth over the past few years has been quite consistent—although it seems to be more about good planning than good luck—so it’s allowed staff to evolve within the agency, rather than leave to chase new challenges somewhere else. And with a couple of teams currently working overseas and high regard for the New Zealand agency among the global network, he says there are also opportunities for local staff in other offices.

Crawford says it’s currently working through a few other changes to existing roles and making some new hires to reflect the fact that people need to develop and that the industry is changing. Those changes will be able to be announced in a few weeks, he says, and van den Hurk says it’s more of an evolution than a restructure.

So what advice does Crawford have for his replacement? He says it’s about knowing what you don’t know and knowing when to keep your mouth shut. 

“I haven’t learned that quite yet. Brian is much better at that than me.”

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