PROFILE: Derrick Tuke-Hastings heads communications agency Park Avenue where his work has included major projects for British Airways and the Dome. He tells Emma Reynolds about bow ties, messy eating and why he got hugged for his work

The first thing you notice about Park Avenue chairman Derrick Tuke-Hastings is his bow tie.

"I'm rather a messy eater and I used to spill gravy all over my ties," he explains. "My wife suggested it.

He chuckles and you get the feeling that this is a man who enjoys making people laugh. When he reveals that he used to write jokes for Basil Brush it all falls into place.

Tuke-Hastings, 51, grew up in Henley-on-Thames and dropped out of university after two years. "I was bored stiff,

he says. When he was 23 he got a job cleaning cars at BMW, but after two weeks he joined the sales promotion team and by the end of the 1970s he was running the marketing department.

During this time he met Nigel Greening, the man who set up Park Avenue and who would ask Tuke-Hastings to join the agency in 1982.

Tuke-Hastings stayed with BMW until the end of 1980 and after a short time setting up car import centres, took up Greening's invitation. "I thought the communications work Nigel was doing was interesting. And I was getting bored at BMW - my creative yearnings were beginning to show,

explains Tuke-Hastings.

"One of the problems with marketing communications agencies in the 1970s was that they always had set solutions. As a client, I always knew what I was going to get. Nigel and I decided that Park Avenue wasn't going to be like that. We wanted to work with companies that we would be stimulated by and interested in, and in return we would offer them relevant creativity."

Today Park Avenue boasts global clients such as Orange, Land Rover and General Motors. The agency also designed and created the Home Planet zone in the Millennium Dome. "We did some good work with the Dome and I am proud of it. It was good for our business because people realised that companies like us exist,

says Tuke-Hastings.

He adds: "Park Avenue wants to be one of the world's leading creative corporate communications agencies. We do brand experiences, events, and we make films. An event is part of our package of communications but we're not an event management company. That to me means catering or venue-booking."

The agency's offices are in Willesden, an unfashionable area of north-west London, and the modern, brightly-coloured offices are a dramatic contrast to their grey surroundings. Tuke-Hastings explains: "Being here has enabled us to give people the space that they need - that doesn't happen if you set up somewhere fashionable."

The happiness and wellbeing of his staff appears to matter deeply to Tuke-Hastings and when he says that they are like a second family you believe him.

After two decades at Park Avenue, Tuke-Hastings recalls one of his highs as being when British Airways (BA) chairman Bob Ayling hugged him after the agency had conceived and produced events at 126 locations, that took place simultaneously in 63 countries for the BA corporate identity launch in 1997.

"It was mega,

says Tuke-Hastings. "It was a good project and a very great moment."

Event communications appealed to Tuke-Hastings because it is a people business - and it still holds the same attraction today. "What I find incredibly interesting is the people all over the world that we meet through our work. All the time you learn and experience new things, and it's fun,

he says.

Asked about his hopes for Park Avenue's future, Tuke-Hastings responds: "I would like it to retain its personality.

With such a character as him on board, that shouldn't be a problem.

TUKE-HASTINGS ON ...

Why virtual events and exhibitions aren't a threat to live events ... Virtual exhibitions can be great but they'll never be as good as the real thing. They offer a one-way dialogue whereas live events offer two-way, longer conversations. I don't think they're a threat at all - I see them as a welcome addition.

Why 'brand encounters' are so important ... These should be the way forward for the event industry. When a corporation or brand communicates something it needs to have all the brand values so people understand and experience the brand in a three-dimensional way.

How the industry needs to progress ... We have to ensure that we create events and experiences in which people want to invest their time and effort. If we make their investment worthwhile then the payoff will be fantastic. You can create lifelong relationships.

How to attract more young people to the industry ... It is a problem - ad agencies tend to get the cream of the crop. The term 'event management' won't necessarily attract creative talent, and career guidance counsellors don't have a clue about what companies like us do. Firms need to be more willing to take a risk on employing graduates.


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