Close-Up: Live Issue - How should Lucy Owen change Nabs?

The new chief executive says the industry charity needs to move with the times.

Following the unexpected departure of Victoria Ward as the chief executive of Nabs after just one year in the job, the industry charity has appointed a successor. Lucy Owen, the client services director at WWAV Rapp Collins, is taking over the mantle.

A 20-year veteran of the industry, who has spent most of that time in direct marketing, Owen has also spent a year working for the NSPCC. She is eager to take over because she believes the experience from her past jobs will give her the skills she needs to tackle the challenges ahead.

Ward, who resigned from the role for personal reasons, had already effected several changes to the charity. Not only did she preside over the first Big Bash to raise more than £1 million, she also opened outposts in Manchester and Scotland and rebuilt the charity's internal structure.

Grant Duncan, Nabs' chairman, says: "Lucy is going to inherit the charity in a healthy state, which means she can concentrate fully on the challenges that face her."

And Duncan and Owen agree on what these challenges are.

"People from all corners of the market use Nabs, but we traditionally get most of our financial support from media owners, media agencies and ad agencies," Owen says. "This support is critical, but we also need to move into sectors such as direct marketing and digital. The charity needs to keep up with the way the industry is changing and my knowledge of the DM industry will be vital," she adds.

Owen believes the best way to do this is to go out and meet key decision-makers to raise awareness of how the charity helps people. "One of my strengths is my ability to build relationships with key people," she says. "Another is my talent at handling budgets. At WWAV I run accounts with a combined budget of £19 million."

That skill will be invaluable, as the charity's budget is minuscule in comparison with what it is trying to achieve.

Marc Mendoza, the managing partner at Media Planning Group, says: "The job is so hard because to move forward she has to take risks, but the budgets are so tight that the charity can't afford to lose money.

"If Nabs invests £50,000 in an event or innovation, it simply has to work; it can't afford not to. Unfortunately for Lucy, the measurement for success in this job is very black-and-white."

Another challenge she will face, and with slightly more trepidation but the same amount of gusto, will be getting to grips with new employment regulations, such as TUPE and the age discrimination laws. However, all of this aside, the biggest part of the chief executive's role is, and always will be, fundraising. Mendoza says: "Nabs's events are a successful part of the fund-raising programme, but it needs to build on the infrequent big events by launching smaller bashes that target younger people."

He points to a party that will take place later in the year called Nabstock, which is sponsored by MPG and four of its clients. It is aimed at younger members of the industry, who Owen has also marked out as people ripe to be persuaded of the importance of the charity. Her enthusiasm, previous experience and passion for the job should stand her in good stead.

MEDIA OWNER - Ian Clarke, general manager, News International Free Newspapers

"It's a cheerleader for the industry, a very strong brand, a really worthy charity and has a lot of backing and support.

"The way the Big Bash has grown from the outdated boxing night to an event that last year raised more than £1 million is amazing. Some celebrity bashes don't make anywhere near that much. However, it does need to try harder to target certain areas of the business. The creative industry is under-represented.

"Creatives are so high-profile and influential that they are overtly missed. Nabs should put a couple of big-name influential creatives on the board who can ring their friends and entice them to get involved."

CREATIVE AGENCY - Matt Shepherd-Smith, chief executive, TBWA\London

"It's too easy for people to be cynical about Nabs, and all too easy to ignore the charity.

"From experience, its success in agencies is often as much to do with the agency representative as it is to do with Nabs itself.

"I wouldn't mind it being a bit more forceful. Awareness of Nabs is high. Awareness of the many services it offers is low. I'm sure Lucy will address this.

"I would want to see Nabs focus on the broader communications industry. I'm not sure it is keeping up with the speed of change. I'd widen the net to bring in more revenue and promote the benefits of less traditional advertising channels. It would then be helping us all."

DIGITAL AGENCY - Mark Collier, managing partner, Dare

"I'm just about to be put on the executive committee, so I'm trying to make myself aware of everything Nabs is involved with.

"Having sat in on the committee and seen first-hand the people that it helps, we really need to raise its awareness to absolutely everyone in the industry.

"I have a high regard for the charity, but I think it needs to get awareness into the digital industry. There is a whole new generation coming through and it needs to know what is so good about Nabs.

"But what makes the task so much harder is that Nabs has such limited funds, it's such a juggling act."

MEDIA AGENCY - Marc Mendoza, managing partner, Media Planning Group

"The charity has become a little reliant on media agencies and media owners.

"It has been very dedicated over the years but it has to move on, so its main challenge now is to broaden its appeal away from these core industries by targeting the direct marketing sector as well as new and emerging markets such as digital.

"It has improved immensely in the past few years and successfully removed the dinosaur perception that it once had by doing away with the boys-club events such as the boxing night.

"It needs to work on this and broaden the appeal to everyone, young and old, male and female."