CAMPAIGNDIRECT: PROFILE GRAHAM GREEN - Bates UK’s chief shrugs off detractors/Graham Green’s appointment has caused some controversy but he is unperturbed

Graham Green’s face registers a flicker of strained amusement as he discovers that, in his first ten days as the chairman of Bates UK’s below-the-line interests, he already has a nickname.

Graham Green’s face registers a flicker of strained amusement as he

discovers that, in his first ten days as the chairman of Bates UK’s

below-the-line interests, he already has a nickname.



’Yup, dead author,’ Karl Schuster, the managing director of Bates

Communications, snickers.



Not terribly imaginative, perhaps, but at least not unkind. Which, given

the volume of negative publicity surrounding Green’s investiture as the

chairman of Bates UK’s newly merged below-the-line shops, comes as a

surprise (not that Schuster would have readily imparted the information

if the nickname was controversial, of course).



Green seems shocked by the sheer volume of negative publicity that has

surrounded his appointment. ’God knows where it’s all come from,’ he

ponders.



’People have been phoning me up and asking what I’ve done to everyone.

But I just shrug my shoulders and get on with it.’



The chap certainly doesn’t fall short on charm. All it takes is a

surprisingly coy but winning smile and our waitress (oh yes, we’re in a

bijou eaterie in Bayswater) spends ten minutes picking through the

minutiae of the Italian menu, eyes glued to Green’s disconcertingly

boyish face.



Once Campaign has put its notebook away, Green becomes disarmingly frank

about the furore, while still maintaining the firm conviction that what

Bates UK’s chairman, Graham Hinton, did was a good thing. Green says: ’I

haven’t met a single below-the-line person who believes what we are

doing is wrong. For a company such as Bates, this has to be the only way

forward.’



Though he would be the first to admit that he’s starting from

scratch.



’It has to be said that if you were building a business model for

integration, in an ideal world you wouldn’t start with Bates. The big

ocean liners are hard to turn around.’



But many people think Hinton was right, including former employees of

Bates Communications (who, admittedly, are looking at the recent news

from the luxurious standpoint of detachment). One said: ’Hinton is

trying to break down the barriers. He built up a direct marketing agency

worthy of sitting at the same table as the ad agency, and that’s what

they are now doing.’



No, a straw poll around the industry shows that the majority believe the

’problem’ is Green himself. Nobody knows him. He’s a bit of a sales

promotion geezer - brash, abrasive, divisive, and too ’charming’ for his

own good. So go all the rumours.



Ironically, Green’s description of his good qualities is only a hair’s

breadth away from his adversaries’ description of the bad ones.

’Forceful and single-minded,’ he says, puffing his chest somewhat and

adding with a wink, ’tall and good-looking, too.’



Green does, however, squirm a little when he talks about his reception

so far. ’There are some, er, conflicts within the companies,’ he

admits.



’Perhaps conflicts is too strong a word, but there are certainly some

suspicions. Furthermore, a lot of the clients believe that the agencies

are already doing a good job with integration, and perhaps are wondering

why they brought me in.’



Why indeed? He’s already denied calling himself a ’direct marketing

guru’ as some have reported. ’There’s a number of people who are good at

direct marketing, and there’s a number of people who are good at sales

promotion,’ Green offers. ’That’s not why they wanted me; they wanted

someone with some success at pulling people together. Someone who could

see the bigger picture, see a plan through.’



Green’s beginnings were humble - a job at a printers after university

that also handled the odd bit of sales promotion work. ’In common with

lots of people who work below the line, I tried to get into advertising

and couldn’t. I stumbled into sales promotion and then rose with the

cake.’



It is infuriatingly unclear from where his chequered reputation stems,

though there have been enough takeovers, mergers, and buying and selling

episodes to fuel a Jeffrey Archer novel.



Here’s the potted version. In 1981, Green started LGM in conjunction

with Lonsdale Advertising, engineering a management buyout in 1987. He

had a stint as the chairman of the industry body, the Sales Promotion

Consultants Association, from 1994 to 1996. He sold LGM on a four-year

earn-out in 1991 to Woollams Moira Gaskin O’Malley, which was in turn

bought by MMI. By 1995, the group was losing money hand over fist and

Green was made the chief executive with a brief to turn it around. (When

people suggest the WMGO episode may have been a bit of a cock-up, Green

snorts: ’Made me more money than I could shake a stick at - I wouldn’t

call it a cock-up, love!’)



MMI was renamed Incepta and most of its assets were sold off or

dumped.



Once the group became profitable, Green merged with Citigate and then

resigned. After becoming - in his own words - bored of doing nothing, he

bought and then relaunched Blue Skies. The rest is history.



Hinton is keen to iron out a few wrinkles in industry perception, and

sent a lengthy fax to Campaign at the beginning of the month: ’Graham

Green was brought into the mix because his skills and experience - but

most importantly his vision - reflected that of the Bates UK executive

board. So far, this has not been in any sense a ’costly exercise’; there

has been no client fallout and only one senior resignation as a result

of it.’



But much has been made of the ructions that Hinton’s unintentional purge

has thrown up and, at the time of going to press, it was apparent that

more resignations would follow. What does Green think? ’I’m not

interested in people who quit,’ he says. ’I’m interested in the people

who are going to stay and make it work. Wimps tend to fold and cave in -

strong people don’t.’ The bravado is understandable, but Green is not

having a good time and must have wondered if it was all worth the

trouble. He didn’t even touch his pudding.



The Green file

1972

Allied Sales Promotions, account executive

1977

Purchasepoint Group, account manager

1981

LGM Marketing Services, founder and chairman

1995

Incepta Group, chief executive

1998

Blue Skies, chairman



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