Colenso loses creative, strategic talisman as Hurman heads to Shanghai—UPDATED

In what will be a big loss for both Colenso BBDO and the New Zealand marcomms community, planning director, talented author, effectiveness evangelist and well-liked bearded brain box James Hurman has accepted the role of planning partner at Ogilvy Shanghai, bringing an end to four very successful years on College Hill. 

We called Hurman for a chat, but he was with his kids in a supermarket in Whangamata, apparently buying All Bran in an effort to keep himself regular. But we got hold of managing director Nick Garret, who is obviously disappointed to lose such a talented man—and a mate—from the ranks, especially since Hurman has been involved in pretty much every piece of great, highly awarded work the agency has done in recent years. Still, as someone who has followed his nose to five different countries, he undersands the desire to test his skills in a much bigger market, in an agency with 600 humans and with one of the world’s best creative directors, Graham Fink, the ex-ECD of M&C Saatchi London and one of creative chairman Nick Worthington’s gentlemanly peers.

Garrett had hoped Hurman, who was recently ranked the no.2 planning director in the world in The Big Won and has a “phenomenal international reputation”, would be able to stay within the BBDO network so that a position could be kept open for him and he could set some bandwidth aside to work on major Colenso projects. But, much like the attempted arrangement between DDB and now departed ECD Toby Talbot, it didn’t work out.

He hopes the strong Kiwi homing beacon will kick in eventually and he’ll return to the homeland at some stage, but he believes this overseas experience will “round him out” and make him an even bigger asset to the New Zealand marketing community.

At this stage he says there’s no plan to name a replacement planning director and he has plenty of confidence in senior planners Andy McLeish and Sue Gill, who will take over Hurman’s account responsibilities when he departs at the end of February.

Hurman, who previously worked at Lowe and Publicis Mojo (including on the Mackenzie bread launch), started at Colenso as senior planner in 2007. And his loss is probably on a similar scale to that of former managing director Brent Smart, who took up a role with the BBDO network based in San Francisco around two years ago.

His departure follows a few changes at Colenso recently, with a deck shuffle that saw Nick Worthington upgraded to creative chairman and Seve Cochran promoted to creative director, as well as the loss of a few senior account staff, including Angela Watson.

Interestingly, Hurman will be working indirectly with Tim Broadbent, the ballbreaking effectiveness officer from Ogilvy Beijing who came over to New Zealand to judge the Effies last year and, rather controversially, tore a new one for some of the contenders. And he’ll also be able to buy products like these in the Chinese Wal-Marts.

UPDATE: Hurman says he’s basically moving from the most creative market in the world to the least creative market in the world. That’s not entirely surprising given China has basically turned from a nation of peasant farmers into one of the most powerful business nations in the world in just a few decades, so there’s a good reason for a lack of sophistication among the marketers (he says there’s still plenty of product demonstrations). But he thinks a “creative revolution” is looming, and it’s of the type that also occurred in the US, so it’s a bloody exciting place to be at the moment. And, given his quest to inspire more creative marketing, it’s a big challenge.

Hurman says he and his wife realised there was a window of opportunity to have a bit of an adventure while their children were young. They looked at a few options like New York, Berlin, Sao Paulo, or Mumbai, but in the end chose Shanghai because they knew so little about it. They wanted to be out of their comfort zone and had heard good things about the city after asking around.

“I don’t think you’ll find us in a gated expat community eating pizza and burgers,” he says.

As much as it will be good from a personal perspective, Hurman says it will also be good from a professional perspective because a lot of the multinationals are implanting seriously talented creative bods in the Chinese market. And he hopes working with Fink, who he sees as on a par with Worthington, will help bring similar success in his new gig.

As for coming home, it will happen eventually. And he’s committed to seeing his kids go to school in New Zealand.

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