Articulate, intelligent, affable, disarmingly modest and with that classically upper middle-class habit of using the word "terrific" to display both pleasure and describe scale, Dominic Proctor seems to epitomise MindShare's positioning as an agency from the intellectual high-ground.
Whereas some network heads find it virtually impossible not to score cheap points over their rival agencies, Proctor eschews this sort of behaviour - a true gentleman, he plays by the rules.
Earlier this year, Proctor, who as the chief operating officer was fundamental to the agency's development since its conception in 1997, took on the MindShare Worldwide chief executive role following Irwin Gotlieb's move to the nascent WPP umbrella media company Group M. Gotlieb had originally been hired from MediaVest to set up MindShare in the US, while Proctor had been responsible for MindShare's development in the rest of the world.
Two years down the line and the creation of MindShare US - with new accounts including Burger King and Nextel - seems complete, so Proctor has added it to his responsibilities, dividing his time between MindShare's London and New York offices.
Because of this, and also probably because Proctor is as English as the Changing of the Guard, some have questioned if this arrangement is a little bit odd. Wouldn't his time be best spent in either one or the other markets, and not both?
Proctor thinks not. "I think that some of our competitors are actually hobbled by the fact that they are dominated by American thinking, people and attitudes, and others by European. So to have a sort of split means that I have to do a lot more travelling but is actually a benefit, so I intend to keep that," he says.
In typical Proctor fashion, he understates his influence on running the worldwide network.
"From day one, we set out to have a strong regional infrastructure so, in terms of travelling, it's not about running the company but keeping the company connected. We have a very strong international culture - more than 60 per cent of our business is internationally co-ordinated," he says.
Proctor says when he was asked to set up MindShare it was always the intention that the network had a strong international outlook and regional infrastructure. Again, characteristically, he attributes this to a bit of foresight and a lot of luck due to MindShare's parentage.
"The luck was that being born, as we were, out of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy, both of those agencies had well- defined international cultures and clients so we were born with that advantage. The foresight then, as it is now, was that we would see much more global and regional consolidation. That's kind of happened," he says.
Last year's global win of Gillette is an obvious case in point. MindShare's international capability was also tested in the pitch for Sony and although the agency was unsuccessful in wresting it from OMD, it put up a damn good fight. Ultimately, OMD had everything to lose and MindShare everything to gain and rumour has it that it came down to a case of who blinked first in the final pitch.
MindShare was a relatively late entrant into the market as a media specialist and it was Proctor who devised the blueprint for the agency. He says that aside from the international capabilities of JWT, where he had been the chief executive, and Ogilvy & Mather, the agency was reinvented.
Proctor concedes that while the chief executive of JWT, he had initially resisted devolving the media function from the full-service agency, but that in the long run this stubbornness may have worked in MindShare's favour.
"We were late into the market, which at the time I thought was an issue, and to some extent I was to blame for that as I was running JWT and for a while I was defending full service. It became obvious to me that that was the wrong strategy. I think being late at the time was an issue for us - we had to catch up very quickly. In retrospect, and again I would say this was more luck than judgment, I think it was a benefit launching when we did because by the time we launched, the market had already changed in that media specialists had got to the forefront of marketing services companies."
This allowed Proctor to come up with a new type of media network, more akin to a consultancy than a traditional media buying shop offering a variety of upstream services to clients.
"We weren't held back by the fact that some of our competitors who were born many years before us had structured themselves around the old model of narrow media planning and buying companies. By the time we launched, the market was already prepared for much broader media companies. Our ambition at launch was much broader than it would have been had we launched five years earlier," he says.
MindShare's House of Media proposition was, and remains, integral to its positioning. Although maintaining volumes are crucial (he, of course, describes MindShare's as "terrific"), the agency broke the media planning and buying mould. He concedes this was not always easy.
"With retrospect, if you look at some markets, it has taken a few years because it's quite a major leap to go from media departments of full-service ad agencies to the most ambitious media specialists. It was never going to happen overnight," Proctor says.
Proctor's blueprint was not intended to be a standard to be rolled out across MindShare's global network and he says each agency has a structure that fits the local market. "The House of Media means different things in different markets. It is at its broadest in the UK and Sweden, for example. There are some markets - Italy and Germany - where it is still relatively narrow. We don't have a one-size-fits-all model."
Although MindShare and the House of Media proposition are just over five years old and has got the geographical spread he is finally happy with, Proctor says one day it may be dismantled and reassembled in a different format.
"We will certainly reinvent it - again this surprises some people. When we wrote the blueprint, we actually wrote within it that we were certain we'd need to reinvent the company within five to ten years of having launched it and I'm sure that will happen. I can't tell you precisely how or when but I think constant reinvention within a service business is crucial. I expect you'd see some major changes in our ambitions and structures as we move forward," he says.
One structural change that was recently announced was the creation of the position of chief executive officer for MindShare Europe. Giulio Malegori, a former chief executive of MindShare Italy, takes on the role with a brief to build the network's European offering. MindShare is currently sixth in Recma's list of European agencies and critics claim that this is an area of weakness for MindShare, an issue that Proctor disputes.
"If you take Carat out, which is a clear leader, then the next five are all within a whisker of each other so we don't have a volume issue in Europe at all. There are a couple of individual countries in Europe where I'd like to have more volume, and I guess you look at France and Spain in that regard, but it's completely wrong to say we're weak in Europe.
Europe has been the engine of our global growth. We're the fastest-growing media agency, since we launched, in the world. A large part of that in terms of volume and reputation has come from Europe," he asserts.
So what other changes could be on the cards? "It will be more in terms of what the market wants from its specialists. I think, for example, it is likely that our structures would become much more client-centric and less geo-centric. Our proposition will broaden still further into consultancy and areas of ROI - work we do now - but this work will increase in its importance to our clients," he says.
The creation of Group M will have another impact. Although the creation of a WPP media umbrella company had been anticipated, the announcement that it was to be called Group M and that Gotlieb would be heading it was a relatively soft one. So what is the rationale and what does it mean for MindShare?
"It's clear to us that volume is the key and therefore collaboration with our sister company is also absolutely key. It's totally in the interests of MindShare to have a strong Mediaedge:cia and vice versa and it's totally in our interests to collaborate with each other as much as possible. It's also in the interests of our clients, some of who compete with each other, that we keep the two businesses separate in order to protect their confidentiality issues. But even those clients who are operating in the same sectors will understand that they get additional benefits by the two companies collaborating in various ways. So Group M is a vehicle through which this collaboration will work," he explains.
Some have asked whether Gotlieb, a master of systems and processes, has simply been shoved sideways into a sinecure, but Proctor maintains this is not the case.
"To use his phrase, he (Gotlieb) hasn't left MindShare, he's simply joined Mediaedge:cia as well. He has no intention of disappearing into some corporate black hole - he'll be deeply involved in both businesses ensuring that the collaboration is to the mutual benefit of clients in both businesses.
Irwin's job is a proper job - he's far too smart to take something that isn't a proper job and WPP is far too smart to invent jobs that aren't proper jobs. This is not a virtual company. Irwin is clearly the boss of WPP's media assets," Proctor confirms.
This collaboration will consist not just of examining ways that negotiation can be combined but also developing research projects together to sharing real estate.
As for MindShare as it stands, Proctor seems to think everything is largely in order. "The infrastructure is largely there. We have a really even spread of billings between the different regions, which is terrific. We are not dominated by any region and we're not beholden to any one system or way of doing things. Probably of all the big agencies, if you look at our geographical spread between the regions it's the most even, which is terrific," he says.
What are the ambitions for the future? "We'll continue to chase volume. However the media business develops, at least in my lifetime, it will always be a volume-based business. So we shall certainly be chasing up the Recma tables, no question about that. How it develops in terms of its breadth is an open question still. It won't be the same in every country - our model will always be flexible," he says.
While the impact of Group M on MindShare remains down the line, we'll have to wait for an unspecified date for the agency's reinvention. Proctor can, but probably won't, look back on his achievements with a large amount of pride.
He concludes: "Martin (Sorrell) asked me once what the key had been to our relative success over the past five years and if I had to sum it up in one word it would be retention. We speak about retention in three areas - retention of our strategy and our beliefs, which we haven't veered from, retention of key executives and I have to say, touching wood, that in the past five years we haven't lost any key executives to our competitors. As a consequence of retention, our strategy and our people, we have therefore retained the vast majority of our clients. Our client retention record is far superior to any other agency. It's been terrific. The clients who are on board have really seen the benefit of working with MindShare."