Media: Double Standards - 'Running round Highbury listening to adult rock'

Managing directors of media agencies explain why medium-sized shops offer the best of both worlds.

PETER THOMSON - MANAGING DIRECTOR, M2M

- What makes your agency stand out in the market?

Being able to offer the best of both worlds - the resource of a global network but the culture and spirit of an independently managed agency.

- What are the challenges of running a medium-sized media agency?

Ensuring I stay immersed in media and making sure I don't get too sucked into the tedious and largely posturing discipline that is "management". Also nurturing our culture, while all the time guarding against becoming another soulless media sweatshop.

- What has been the biggest threat your agency has faced in the past 12 months?

Our biggest threat is resisting the pull towards the average. As margins come under increasing pressure, rejecting the temptation to do a quick job and ensuring we do the best job possible is paramount.

- Does the size of your agency inhibit new-business opportunities?

No. Our biggest problem in the past two years has been the number of new-business pitches we have been asked to do (and subsequently won).

- What is your favourite type of client and what makes working with them enjoyable?

Four types of clients: challenger brands - we love outsmarting their competitors that have bigger budgets; new ventures - they are so hungry and helping them grow is very rewarding; clients who have had a bad experience in a big agency - restoring their faith in the media people is good for the soul; finally, premium or luxury brands that really value the partner-style service we can provide.

- What's the most enjoyable aspect of running an agency?

On the altruistic side, giving people bonuses. On a personal level, the huge number of talented and interesting individuals that you encounter on a daily basis, many of whom, such as Tim Irwin and his wife, become good friends.

- What has been your proudest piece of work as an agency?

The pitch we produced to win the prestigious Estee Lauder account. More recently, the "live" ads for Match.com produced a pretty big surge of adrenalin.

- What makes a good managing director?

Since the "bean-counter" revolution took place, I think media companies have become increasingly well managed. However, this has been to the detriment of leadership. I think we will see leadership (however you define that) become more important for good MDs.

- How did you end up working in the media industry? Had you always intended to?

Black Monday (October 1988) kissed goodbye to any hopes of a career in the City and the offer from Jerry Fielder at Leagas Delaney seemed marginally better than my existing job - a barman in Blackpool.

- Describe your weekly media consumption?

It's just changed - when we moved house two years ago I agreed to forgo Sky as part of our economy drive. I then noticed that my wife had sacrificed nothing - so by post-rationalising free broadband and cheaper phone calls we have just got Sky back. I also love newspapers, and due to the wife's job I hear a lot of Magic FM.

- Have you got any interesting hobbies or interests?

I have always been a huge sports enthusiast and still try to play as much as possible, although I seem to spend more time watching these days. I have just negotiated another season playing hockey for Barnes Veterans.

TIM IRWIN - JOINT MANAGING DIRECTOR, BJK&E

- What makes your agency stand out in the market?

Our brilliant people, great clients and huge desire to always deliver stand-out comms solutions and not be a process-driven factory of media. We're also part of Group M, which gives us the bits big agencies are great at - negotiation scale, insight tools and "back office" services.

- What are the challenges of running a medium-sized media agency?

Our mantra is "small agency, big business". We're small but we have the resource of the biggest agencies, we're small but we have big ideas. We're small but we're big on ambition. Have you seen what I've done there? Never use the phrase "medium-sized".

- What has been the biggest threat your agency has faced in the past 12 months?

Losing any of our brilliant people or great clients.

- Does the size of your agency inhibit new-business opportunities?

No.

- What is your favourite type of client and what makes working with them enjoyable?

One that wants us to make a real difference to their business. One that has exceptional expectations. One that involves us at the earliest opportunity and one that has enormous enthusiasm and ambition for their brand. Oh, and one that rewards us handsomely.

- What's the most enjoyable aspect of running an agency?

Seeing how proud people who work here are of BJK&E. Particularly those who have worked elsewhere.

- What has been your proudest piece of work as an agency?

Integrating digital applications from day one. Others are finally getting on to the digital integration bandwagon. We've been doing it for years.

- What makes a good managing director?

Ask Peter Thomson, I've heard he's pretty good. I'm a mere joint managing director.

- How did you end up working in the media industry? Had you always intended to?

Yes - from a very early age I was fascinated by the prospect of digital integration. So much so, that I took a job as a press buyer at Lintas in the early 80s, some 20 years before it came about.

- Describe your weekly media consumption?

The Guardian, The Observer, bbc.co.uk, the fiver, popbitch, Holy Moly, pandora.com, The Word, The Economist, OK, Sopranos, Soccer Saturday, Dragon's Den, The F -Word, Noddy, The Wiggles, Campaign, 606, bus sides, back-lit six-sheets, First Direct text messages.

- Have you got any interesting hobbies or interests?

Watching Tottenham's inexorable rise towards Champions League glory, running around Highbury Fields listening to adult-oriented rock, and entertaining and being entertained by my children.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).