The vindication of Paul Fishlock

The Campaign PalaceWow.

You may have noticed that not much went up on Mumbrella over the last couple of hours.

That’s because I’ve been reading the judge’s findings in Paul Fishlock’s case against The Campaign Palace.

I’d always known that agencyland can be a brutal place. But the picture of the cynical, ego-driven, unsentimental world that comes through in the findings of Justice John Sacker is something else. I recommend you take the time to read it yourself.

The reputation of Young & Rubicam’s global creative director Tony Granger certainly takes a battering in my view. The word “bully” is a hard one to come back from.

And former Campaign Palace CEO Mark Mackay comes across as someone you might think twice about either hiring or working for, based on the evidence presented. The judge calls him contemptuous of both Granger and Fishlock.

Paul Fishlock


And Fishlock is entirely vindicated in his claims that he was unfairly axed as national creative chief of the now defunct Campaign Palace.

I’m astonished too about what appears to be a near obsession with trade press PR. I was surprised to read that the reportedly negative views of Campaign Brief boss Michael Lynch towards Fishlock carried weight in management’s discussions of how to treat him.

The emails published in the judgement tell an astonishing story.

Paul Fishlock – one of Australia’s creative greats and the F in BMF – had been national executive creative director of Campaign Palace since 2003.

By the time Mackay returned to the helm of The Campaign Palace – part of WPP’s Y&R Brands Group  – in 2010 after a couple of years away, the agency was on a downwards slope.

The chain of events began when the Sydney creative director departed in 2010. Quietly, the management began to look for a national lead to replace Fishlock rather than a Sydney lead to work under him. They began to focus on Reed Collins, an Aussie working at Leo Burnett Chicago.

mark mackay

mark mackay

Tony Granger

Tony Granger

Granger and Mackay begin talking about how to get rid of Fishlock. An email from Mackay to Granger reads:

“We probably should book a call on Paul F…. it’s a difficult one, with Cam going he obviously provides a degree of stability/continuity. Clients like Panasonic and Dominos are already pissed about the high turnover rates, so I think we need to ease him out after Reed and Michelle have had some time to engage. I accept that he is not the future but if he left at the end of March 2011 this might be workable. Let me know what you think.”

Later Granger emails Mackay: “Fishlock is a problem and has to go.”

Three days later though, Mackay is still indicating to Fishlock that they are looking for a Sydney replacement, not a national role. His email is headed “Sydney CD”.

Russell Howcroft

Russell Howcroft

And Mackay worries what the agency’s remaining clients might think. He emails Russel Howcroft (now GM of Ten in Melbourne), at the time CEO of parent company Y&R Brands:

“As mentioned on the phone, Reed’s request for the national ECD title appears to be a deal breaker. I reminded Reed today of the plan we discussed when we interviewed him. This was to spend 3-4 months as Sydney CD. We could better manage/migrate him across to ECD. Why? Because this afforded us some time for Paul to complete some major new Anti-Tobacco work. It also prevented Paul exiting at a time when the Palace is pretty damaged….

“In all honesty, I fear that Panasonic and other Government business will see this as the final straw.

Beyond this I also fear that we could be in for some legal action from Paul so that we could have used the time to get our house in order.

“So our dilemma is: How do we give Reed the title and keep Paul engaged? Options I have are four fold.

“1. Exit Paul and hope for the best.

“2. Ask Tony G and Michelle D to help us resell the original plan into Reed.

“3. Migrate Paul into new Palace Group Company, called Palace G and C (Government and Community).

“4. Sell Paul as Chairman relinquishing the National title to Reed…I become CEO again.

“I favour 2, 3 and 4 in that order. Something to sleep on. In the meantime I hardly need to remind you that the thought of Reed going cold on us is ever present.”

Reed Collins

Reed Collins

Meanwhile, Collins is pushing to be “the guy” from day one rather than there being a transition.

Granger supports this from New York. He believes that immediately appointing Collins as the new national creative chief will create a bigger story for the trade press.

He emails: “He needs to be the CCO from day 1. Big PR story !!!!!”

Granger adds in a second email: “Our discussions… with Reed have been joining as ECD or CCO, whatever role would make the biggest PR/new business story. He just would not move for anything else…”

In January, the plan begins to unravel, US based website Agency Spy reveals that Collins is leaving Leo Burnett in Chicago to become chief creative officer at The Campaign Palace. It was the first Fishlock had heard of it.

This is where the influence of the trade press really comes to bear.

Campaign Brief’s Michael Lynch follows up the Agency Spy story with Granger. Granger emails Mackay to say that Lynch has had unfavourable things to say about Fishlock:

“Lynchie asked a lot about him. He is not a fan at all btw. He really needs to move on so Reed and you can sew your thing. The sooner the better!

“Spoke to Hamish who agrees.”

That’s Hamish as in Hamish McLennan, then global CEO of Y&R (and now boss of Ten back in Australia).

Mackay later emails Granger: “Let’s just hope Fishlock does not walk immediately and take another million in revenue with him.”

When the judge moves from the email exchanges to the testimony, he makes it clear what he thinks: “I found Mr Fishlock despite his obvious, and if I may say understandable, anger to be forthright and candid in giving his evidence. I have no misgivings about accepting his evidence in its entirety, especially in relation to his role and the lack of reporting in any practical sense, or the lack of any supervision or direction to him from any person technically senior to him, on creative matters.”

The next piece of commentary on Mark Mackay and what he thinks of Granger is best left in the judge’s words, for legal reasons:

He accepted that the persons in New York favoured immediately forcing Mr Fishlock out. Mr Mackay, when asked about a number of emails which passed between himself and Mr Granger, described Mr Granger as “an arrogant leader in New York”. A little later he described Mr Granger as lacking “commercial savvy” and also as a “bully”. He said: ‘One needs to humour bullies and the way that one does it is as I have outlined in these emails’.”

The judge goes on: “I have serious misgivings about Mr Mackay’s evidence. In particular I do not accept his description of Mr Fishlock’s duties and responsibilities… Mr Mackay was it seems to me both contemptuous of Mr Fishlock and his American superiors.”

Not surprisingly, the judge ruled that Fishlock was entitled to nine months’ pay  worth $262,500, plus an additional $40,384 to cover the termination period. He reduced the amount by $35,000 because of earnings Fishlock made during that nine-month period.

Costs will be agreed in the coming weeks. The cost to reputations may take longer.

Tim Burrowes


  1. H
    10 May 13
    2:05 pm

  2. Thank God there is still some crazy Ego shit going down in Adland, I was concerned we were turning into banks

  3. Rebecca
    10 May 13
    2:12 pm

  4. What a bunch of a$$hats.

  5. Andrew
    10 May 13
    2:25 pm

  6. Very insightful Tim. Thanks for publishing

  7. Peter McNamara
    10 May 13
    2:27 pm

  8. To author: Great attention to detail. A pithy and well written piece. Thank you.

  9. Glenn Mabbott
    10 May 13
    2:42 pm

  10. Justice Sackville could apply for a position as copywriter at Ogilvy
    He certainly has a skill for “the truth well told”

  11. Jerry
    10 May 13
    2:43 pm

  12. Aside from the more obvious stuff in this article, I like “Clients like Panasonic and Dominos are already pissed about the high turnover rates”.
    Well, I can’t speak for Panasonic, but I think anyone who has ever worked with Domino’s would say that they have nobody to blame but themselves for turnover on their account.

  13. Brenton Moore
    10 May 13
    2:46 pm

  14. Hey Tim,
    Good stuff!

  15. Bre
    10 May 13
    2:49 pm

  16. What a great bit of insightful industry guff to start my weekend. Thanks Tim!

  17. Bob
    10 May 13
    2:54 pm

  18. mug shots – US vs Aus, brilliant

  19. Wang
    10 May 13
    3:03 pm

  20. Lesson is; don’t work for a multi-national (start your own business and be your own boss) and above all don’t work for any Y&R brands, they have no loyalty to their employees.

  21. Client
    10 May 13
    3:19 pm

  22. Will watch out for those names on the next pitch “beauty parade”. I wonder what they all think of trade press now ?

  23. Gladys
    10 May 13
    3:55 pm

  24. WPP. Beaten but not defeated.

    They WILL appeal – because they want the (advertising) world to know that if you take on this monolith in the courts…you better have very, very deep pockets.

    This was never about Paul F per-se… it was about sending a message to those worker bees in WPP honey-pots around the world.

  25. Wang
    10 May 13
    3:58 pm

  26. All of the above mentioned executives exchanging memos did a brilliant job of shrinking a once great agency. Maybe they should have been the ones on the chopping block?

  27. Nic
    10 May 13
    4:04 pm

  28. Nice piece Tim.

  29. bob is a rabbit
    10 May 13
    4:23 pm

  30. What surprises me most is the informal and liberal use of email in discussing such matters among senior execs…surely they’re not that stupid, well, um…

  31. Mike Presland
    10 May 13
    4:33 pm

  32. maybe just another case of shoot the old dude and damn the torpedos.
    no mistaking the fact that Tony is obviously over 40 and Reed isn’t!

  33. I was there
    10 May 13
    4:34 pm

  34. It’s amazing to me that advertising agencies still behave as if it’s 1985 – as if the fundamental laws of HR (and human decency) don’t apply to them. It’s this kind of behaviour that makes agencies the laughing stock of clients. Unprofessional used car salesmen. I believe others have got off lightly in terms of reputation damage.

  35. Tarred
    10 May 13
    4:49 pm

  36. Great to see this aired – well done Mummy – what is it with Y&R and bullies? (Edited by Mumbtella for legal reasons)

  37. Joe te deo
    10 May 13
    5:04 pm

  38. (edited by Mumbrella for legal reasons) Paul could actually win awards on real business, with work that actually ran.

    (Edited by Mumbrella for legal reasons).

  39. Um...
    10 May 13
    5:05 pm

  40. Sorry, but where are AdGrunt and Groucho’s comments on this – please??

    Isn’t anyone in WPP gonna comment, or are they under starter’s orders??

    How bouts you Elvas?

  41. Julie
    10 May 13
    11:36 pm

  42. If only the same amount of effort put into strategising sneaky wordplays and sharpening knives went to assisting their clients with their businesses

  43. Natural justice
    11 May 13
    12:23 am

  44. And to think Reed turned out to be a dud.

  45. Cecile B Demille
    11 May 13
    6:17 am

  46. Advertising is broken. The emperor’s new clothes are plainly evident. Bankrupt of creative talent, these agency mover/shaker types guzzle agency fees on their expense account while delivering no real value. The sooner the client side starts to wake to to the fact that a name is not a result, the sooner shit can get to where it needs to be.

    Agencies should not be run by accountants (not their fault) and dipshits (entirely their fault). This vain tragedy needs to end. Do these backstabbing reprobates really have any shred of credibility? “I did this for such and such client!” That was either 1) ages ago, Mr. Rests-on-his-Laurels (and probably a fluke) or 2) someone else’s great work whom you’ve since probably laid off, you evil fuck. Not a single solitary one of them could do creative on a day-to-day basis anymore. Stealing an idea, or credit for an idea, is NOT AN IDEA. Or original. Or obfuscatable.

    Word to the wise, kiddies. If you’re at an agency run by a holding company, get out. Run. Run like the fucking wind. These assholes are completely disconnected with reality, truth, and the practical skills related to what you do. You have little to gain by outstaying your (likely insincere) welcome.

  47. how does it feel today
    11 May 13
    9:34 am

  48. to wake up and look in the mirror Mr Mackay – contemptuous? (edited by Mumbrella for legal reasons)? Excellent reading.

  49. Groucho
    11 May 13
    12:04 pm

  50. Oh I do so hope that this encourages all those people who have been boned in the past (is there a statute of limitations on this offence) to go for it. Lets not stop at condemning just one as the judge did but let’s exposé the arseholes who had their personal fiefdoms ( thanks Rochelle Burbury for that one), the no-talent idea stealers, the people who encouraged ‘managers’ instead of advertising people to run agencies and the carpetbaggers who flew in, raped and pillaged and flew out. Hope that karma gets them all, but lets not rely on that. Sue the bastards I say.

    And thank you Um for your encouragement.

  51. John
    13 May 13
    7:27 am

  52. Tim I did like your (unintentional?) slip up in para four, with Young & Rubicam crossing its Rubicon thus creating Young & Rubican.

  53. Groucho
    13 May 13
    12:16 pm

  54. @Um, we’ll I have tried but sadly I can’t seem to get one up, even ‘edited for legal reasons’

  55. hmmm...
    13 May 13
    1:09 pm

  56. yes, anyone who doesn’t score an ‘edited for legal reasons’ in this thread just isn’t trying hard enough,

  57. Don Draper
    13 May 13
    9:11 pm

  58. Is that all an “ECD” gets paid these days? I made more in 1968.