HEADLINER: Italian troubleshooter arrives to put CIA on road to recovery - Mainardo de Nardis is the network’s golden boy and he tells Anna Griffiths why

He talks faster than my pen can write, each word is linked with the next so that it’s almost impossible to get a word in edgeways, and he is as smooth and quick as a Ferrari. This is the new hand at the unsteady helm of CIA Medianetwork, the Italian-born Mainardo de Nardis, who became the agency’s chairman and acting chief executive last week.

He talks faster than my pen can write, each word is linked with the

next so that it’s almost impossible to get a word in edgeways, and he is

as smooth and quick as a Ferrari. This is the new hand at the unsteady

helm of CIA Medianetwork, the Italian-born Mainardo de Nardis, who

became the agency’s chairman and acting chief executive last week.



From the moment I set foot in his office, he outlines how the interview

will proceed and bombards me with information. ’Can I talk about myself

so that you know where I am coming from? Let me start from the

beginning.’ As he talks a picture quickly emerges of an ambitious,

focused man whose strength of character and leadership could arrest

CIA’s current decline. ’If I understand clearly what the objective is, I

will get there. Nothing is impossible.’



This resolve took shape at an early age. At just seven years old, de

Nardis decided to go into advertising. ’I was playing in Young & Rubicam

(Rome) with the father of a friend, looking at production, seeing

movies.



It created a passion.’ Since then, de Nardis, who continues to be

responsible for CIA Medianetwork Europe, has been credited with rapidly

building up CIA’s brand across 25 countries and getting it on to all the

major European pitches.



Last Thursday, a slew of directors left CIA as de Nardis made his first

move to create a leaner group with a sharper edge. He declares: ’The

market sees us as a strong brand but our credibility has been fading

away in the last few years.’ He maintains that CIA is ’the best-kept

secret in the industry’, but the agency has suffered from marketing

itself ineffectively.



Chris Ingram, chairman of CIA’s parent company, Tempus, has put de

Nardis in place to repeat his success with CIA’s international network.

’The underlying product is good, the profile certainly isn’t high enough

and the senior client relationships aren’t well enough established.’

According to Ingram, de Nardis will create respect for the CIA brand. ’I

don’t think anybody reflects the CIA spirit better than Mainardo. He’s

the ultimate can-do operator. He’s a great achiever while being a very

nice person. You don’t often get those two things together.’



After starting his career at McCann-Erickson in Rome, where he worked in

client marketing, de Nardis decided to return to Y&R. ’I packed the car

and went to Milan, told Y&R that I had always wanted to work for them

and talked my way into a job.’ At 26, he was invited by the creative

director of McCanns, Alberto Cremona, to come in on his start-up

agency.



It was this venture which was to bring him into close contact with a

media independent and seal his fate. Rather than creating an internal

media department, de Nardis persuaded a small independent in Verona

called the Medianetwork, led by Marco Benatti, to join forces and open a

Milan office. ’It was the first time that I learned something in media

and I found out that it was not so boring!’



Two years later, and for reasons de Nardis is unwilling to divulge, he

fell out with Benatti. De Nardis instead threw his energy into building

up Medianetwork’s international links. In 1989, he met Ingram, who was

looking for specialists to work with in Europe, and the Medianetwork

began its relationship with CIA. By December 1993, CIA merged with the

Medianetwork and, within seven days of the merger, de Nardis was

installed in the UK to head the agency’s European operations.



Although de Nardis is confident that he will get to grips with the UK

market, he confesses to feeling a bit of an outsider. ’One peculiarity

of the British market is it’s more difficult to have a senior position

if you are not part of the establishment. It’s very much a personality

market. In Europe it is much less so. When I stop working I like to be

with other people and have another life.’ But how much time de Nardis

has left to devote to his wife, Christiana, and his two children, aged

six and four, is debatable. One industry observer says: ’He’s the sort

of guy that you get e-mails from at 4am and can often be found in the

office at weekends.’



De Nardis has a clear view of where CIA needs to be in a year’s

time.



’I couldn’t care less about size. What is important is that it’s on the

map and people see what we stand for. It needs to emanate success, where

clients are happy and people are relaxed enough to do the job well. Back

to normal life!’



THE DE NARDIS FILE

1980

McCann-Erickson, client marketing

1981

Young & Rubicam, account director

1986

Alberto Cremona, co-founder

1988

Medianetwork, Milan, vice-chairman and partner

1993

CIA Medianetwork Europe, managing director

1997

CIA Medianetwork Europe Holdings, chief executive

1998

CIA Medianetwork UK, chairman and acting chief executive



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