There's little doubt the 47-year-old Briton, imported last month by Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide as executive creative director, will reorder his "pride" in an effort to boost the agency's creative reputation. But for now, Madison Avenue's most recent-albeit reluctant-recruit is flying below the radar, meeting staffers and fretting over the prospect of furnishing his Upper East Side apartment.
"There's no point in doing anything in a hurry," Mr. Cracknell says.
Indeed, the man heralded by the industry and media as one of the U.K.'s finest creative directors took his time deciding whether to come to the Colonies.
BSB Inc. Chairman Michael Bungey, also Backer's ceo, began trying to convince Mr. Cracknell to follow him to New York in June. Seven months later, still somewhat dazed by his decision to join the ranks of Yanks, Mr. Cracknell arrived.
"Michael kept asking me to do it, and I kept saying, `I don't know,"' Mr. Cracknell recalls. "Then I came in one day and wondered, `What if he doesn't ask [me again]?"' That's when he decided to take the job.
Although some industry observers question whether Mr. Cracknell can duplicate the success he had in London, where he resuscitated what he acknowledges was a "moribund" BSB Dorland, he says: "I'm an arrogant sort of bloke; I wouldn't be here if I thought I were going to fail."
Still, to help him assimilate, one of his first meetings in Manhattan was with Helayne Spivak, now the creative director of Ammirati & Puris, who held the same post at Young & Rubicam's New York office.
"I thought her experiences leading a big New York agency creatively could be helpful to me, as indeed they were," Mr. Cracknell says. "She was very encouraging."
Mr. Cracknell, who maintains creatives shouldn't fear the "prankster come across the Atlantic," denies that Backer needs a talent transfusion to boost the agency's reputation.
Instead, the man-known to favor creative department "pools" where people can be picked for projects across the agency's client base-will likely first dismantle rigid creative groups.
When asked if large U.S. agencies can compete creatively with the likes of Kirshenbaum & Bond and Ammirati, Mr. Cracknell quickly responds: "Why the hell not? It's simply a matter of motivation and guidance."
The career creative director-father to three daughters ranging from 7 to 12 years old-is a study in contrasts. Though he has the savoir-faire of James Bond, Mr. Cracknell is a down-to-earth artful wit who lacks a formal education.
"I wasn't very good at school," Mr. Cracknell says, admitting he left Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School in Rochester, England, at 15.
Did he flunk out?
"Sort of. Yeah."
Though Mr. Cracknell was able to import his favorite tunes-reggae, soul and calypso music-to the U.S., his beloved sport, cricket, doesn't translate.
"Maybe," he says, suddenly sounding like a New Yorker, "I'll take up Rollerblading."