Gordon Willoughby, the sales, marketing and circulation director of
the Financial Times, has a pedigree to match even the most top-flight of
his readers. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and took a place
among the elite of his graduating year with a job at Boston Consulting
Group. Even more impressively he did a multi-lingual MBA at the INSEAD
school in France.
Willoughby proved that his ego is not as grand as his CV by deciding
against an agency review when he joined the FT from Diageo 12 months
’I didn’t want to make (Delaney Fletcher Bozell) repitch just because I
was new,’ he says. ’The agency had been through all that only a year
before. I had a strong marketing team when I came in and they were happy
with the advertising.’
The agency will be hoping that this relationship develops after its
management, which this month rejected a global merger with FCB,
relaunches as Delaney Lund Knox Warren.
’We will retain our team which is crucial to us. They tell me there will
be no change except for access to a stronger international network,’
Global reach has become increasingly important for the FT. More than
half the paper’s sales are overseas and Willoughby reports growth in the
US and Europe as ’robust’, while in the UK sales are static in a
The FT is taking what he calls a ’glocal’ approach to advertising, where
a global template is agreed before key messages are decided market by
The ’no FT no comment’ line remains for the UK weekday editions. For the
campaign for the newly revamped Saturday issue, the FT has taken the
agency’s idea of wrapping objects in the pages of the paper to
demonstrate its wide-ranging coverage. It has also incorporated this
idea in its latest TV commercial.
’We now have the confidence to go on television. The idea is to broaden
awareness of the product and to prompt reappraisal.’
As a client, Willoughby demonstrates all the contemporary preoccupations
of a serious marketer. He talks enthusiastically of a sharp strategy
matched by powerful creativity and strong integration. Many of these
skills were honed when he was at Diageo.
The exposure to the harder end of the business he experienced at Diageo
was, he says, good preparation for dealing with the newsagents and
retailers who are so important to the FT’s success.
And the FT fits in with his interests, too. Media and current affairs
have always been a ’consuming passion’ for Willoughby; he’s just not
accustomed to taking his own turn in the spotlight. As the interview
comes to an end and the photo-shoot is arranged, he asks: ’Do I have to
spend the weekend at the beautician?’