Havas CX Helia Cirencester restores ECD role for Knight

Ben Knight 2Havas CX Helia has appointed former Mullen Lowe Open global creative chief Ben Knight to be the first executive creative director of its Cirencester office for decades, on the back of a raft of new account wins.

Knight, who will oversee and run the office’s 40-strong creative department, has been freelancing since December 2020. He also joins the agency’s leadership team, reporting into Cirencester managing director David MacMillan.

He will take over from former AIS London chief Steve Stretton, who has been running the creative department for the past six months; Stretton will continue in a yet to be determined role.

The Cirencester agency works closely with the London business, which sits within Havas’ London King’s Cross Village, and has won a number of accounts in recent months, including skincare brand Aesop and car maker Volkswagen Group UK.

The Cirencester agency can trace its roots back to one of the UK’s first direct marketing shops, Brann, set up by Christian Brann and his wife Mary Rose in 1967. It was merged with Evans Hunt Scott to form EHS Brann in 2000 and went through numerous guises before becoming Havas CX Helia last year.

The ECD role was once held by Paul Kitcatt, who became one of the youngest creatives ever to have held the job, back in 1992. However, in recent years, the agency has had a group creative director, who has worked across both sites.

The last known creative director at Cirencester was Mike Watson, who had been at the business since 2014. He left earlier this year and now works at Chipping Norton agency Mark-Making.

Knight’s appointment follows a number of major pitch wins for the agency over the past six months, with new clients such as train operator Avanti West Coast and charity the Royal British Legion joining flagship accounts including Lloyds Banking Group, Diageo, Pets at Home and Volvo.

Knight’s most recent role was as global creative lead at Mullen Lowe Open; he left in December 2020. He was also executive creative director of the agency’s UAE office from 2017 to 2019.

Prior to that, Knight was ECD of Geometry Global’s Dubai office, where he worked from 2008 to 2017, and held associate creative director roles at WPP’s OgilvyAction and Tarantula.

He has worked across commerce, CRM, brand experience, brand activation, social and digital for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Unilever, Diageo, Google, Danone, NHS England, Etihad Airways, Ikea, Philips, Audi, and Coca-Cola.

Knight said: “Concerningly, there aren’t a great deal of standalone, specialist customer engagement agencies left – so naturally I’m thrilled to be joining one of the best, with a brief to make it even better. Havas CX Helia’s client roster is second-to-none, and I can’t wait to get stuck into it – particularly at such an exciting time for the customer experience sector as a whole.”

MacMillan added: “We’ve had a phenomenally successful couple of years on the new business front – to the extent we’re actually bigger now than we were pre-pandemic. With loyalty, data and customer engagement booming like never before, now is the perfect time to overinvest – if there is such a thing – in creativity.

“As one of the best creative minds working in this space, I’m incredibly excited Ben has agreed to join us. His appointment has the opportunity to be a genuinely game-changing moment for our output.

“I’d also like to thank the legend that is Steve Stretton, who has been manning our creative department for the past six months and will continue to be involved in some capacity. We’re lucky to have him, too.”

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