CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: PROFILE/NIGEL WALLEY - Lowes puts faith in plain-speaking entrepreneur who belies his name. Nigel Walley has made his name as a consultant who impresses without using jargon, John Owen writes

’With a name like Nigel Walley,’ says Nigel Walley, ’you can’t fail to get on in life. People will always remember it!’

’With a name like Nigel Walley,’ says Nigel Walley, ’you can’t fail

to get on in life. People will always remember it!’



Actually, he is relating what a friend once told him, no doubt to try

and cheer him up a bit. Nigel himself is not so sure. ’I introduced

myself to someone once who started laughing before I even got to the

surname,’ he sniffs.



But Walley by name is most certainly not wally by nature.



After a varied career that has spanned design, management consultancy

and, most recently, internet marketing, the 34-year-old has won the

backing of the Lowe Group for his start-up management consultancy,

Decipher.



That he should spot the gap in the market for a digital management

consultancy was clever. To get the backing of a blue-chip agency group

such as Lowes was even cleverer. But then being clever is exactly what

Walley is planning to get paid for.



As he’s quick to admit, however, there is a drawback to the Lowes

backing: people are bound to think of Decipher as a marketing

consultancy. Many, indeed, have already assumed that it is the

replacement for Lowe Digital, the web design unit closed by the main

agency earlier this year. Walley is therefore keen to explain his

company’s mission: ’We will advise companies on the different way

business works online. We’re not technology consultants and we’re not

marketing consultants. We’re much more at home with spreadsheets than

media plans.’



Decipher will be involved in the decision-making process at a much

earlier stage than the ad agency and, says Walley, it’s very unlikely

that the two will work together on joint projects. Decipher won’t pitch

with the agency - or with other group companies such as Lowe Direct or

Western International Media - although it may well work with their

clients, he says.



Marc Cave, the Lowe Group executive vice-president in charge of the

digital arena, is less absolute about this. ’Where there are joint

opportunities, I’d be surprised if we weren’t able to pitch together,’

he says. ’But we do have to protect his independence. For that reason,

he doesn’t take the Lowe name.’



Walley sees his company working mostly in areas such as e-commerce,

helping to identify opportunities and advising on issues such as product

development, market segmentation, competition strategy and

distribution.



The advice may well lead to a media execution - for which Lowes and

Western could pitch - but Decipher’s independence is critical to its

claim to offer impartial advice. While many web agencies already work

with clients on a consultancy basis, Walley questions the motives behind

the advice they give: ’If you get strategic advice from a company like

AKQA,’ he says, ’I’m damn sure that at some point they’re going to

recommend you build a website. You get the advice for free as part of

the cost of the sale.’



The sort of advice clients can expect from Walley is pretty

down-to-earth stuff. His maxim is simple enough: ’There are no new

issues.’



To illustrate the point, he recalls his intervention at an internet

conference where delegates were trying to work out where the e-christmas

virtual shopping mall had gone wrong. Were its back-up systems at

fault?



Or were fears about credit card security to blame? Walley’s view was

much simpler. ’If you built a shopping centre in the middle of the

Sahara Desert, would anyone go?’ he asked. ’The issues are just

old-fashioned real estate ones. Was the mall visible in areas where most

online traffic goes? Was there a real reason for people to go and do

their shopping there? No.



They built a crap site that no-one knew was there.’



This ability to put things in plain English is part of what attracted

Cave to Walley. Having spent ’a good year’ looking at the digital area,

Cave decided that an ’ideas man’ - someone who could ’explain the bigger

picture to clients’ - was the first priority. No sooner had the need

been identified than, as if by magic, Walley walked in with a business

plan for Decipher. ’I know it’s not supposed to happen like that,’ says

Cave, ’but it did.’



From the Lowe Group perspective, Decipher will not only play a key role

in explaining digital issues to clients but will also have a major

educational job to do internally.



On a personal level, the Lowes deal is a dream ticket for Walley - not

least because its Knightsbridge offices are just across Kensington

Gardens from his home in Lancaster Gate. He lives there with his wife

and their 20-month-old son, Connor. Asked what his hobbies are, he says:

’I used to row and play rugby. Now I have Connor.’



But he’s got a new baby now. And it’s not called Walley.





THE WALLEY FILE

1998: Decipher, founder and managing partner

1996: NTL Internet, marketing director (from 1997)

1994: Putnam Hayes & Bartlett, telecoms and new-media consultant

1992: PFour, marketing consultant

1991: Cornell University, MBA

1986: Fitch & Co, designer of retail developments



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