MEDIA HEADLINER: Aggressive buyer sets out to master the digital revolution. Does Paul Longhurst have the new-media answers? Eleanor Trickett finds out

Paul Longhurst’s shoes are disappointingly normal compared with his usual footwear. Brown suede loafers have replaced the green crocodile Guccis he was wearing when I first met him. ’Yeah, I took them back after six months when they fell apart,’ he explains. He got his money back, too (even though Gucci should have paid him to wear them).

Paul Longhurst’s shoes are disappointingly normal compared with his

usual footwear. Brown suede loafers have replaced the green crocodile

Guccis he was wearing when I first met him. ’Yeah, I took them back

after six months when they fell apart,’ he explains. He got his money

back, too (even though Gucci should have paid him to wear them).



Somehow, green Guccis might detract from the serious image he now wants

to portray as a co-director of a brand new media company, Quantum, set

up with 50/50 backing from Booth Lockett Makin (Campaign, last

week).



The objectives are laid out on a 24-page fax, but the key issue is

outlined on page one: ’To build a new type of media specialist agency

that can handle real change ... in a market suffering from a lack of new

ideas and investment in the future.’



So why did he plump for BLM? ’I didn’t really come close to any other

deal,’ he explains. ’I know it sounds cliched, but there is a genuine

like-mindedness between me and Steve (Booth); others I talked to just

didn’t get it.’



Didn’t get what? He answers by opening his copy of the Financial Times

and showing me the number of articles about digital television and new

media in general. ’All of this, by definition of being in the FT, is

close to the heart of business, but there has been very little

communication to the heads of business from the advertising industry as

to what the industry’s role will be.’



So if Longhurst’s proposition is a dead cert, why have so few others

made a stand and put themselves forward to represent the way ahead?

’There is a risk,’ he admits, ’but the central issue is that new media

isn’t an if, it’s a when. Agencies never seem to do anything until the

clients say ’why aren’t you doing this?’.’



The client offer is broad. ’The most interesting conversations I’ve had

have been with clients who want to use digital TV but don’t know where

to start. I can provide the knowledge and the resource for just that.

But for people who know a bit more about the area, I can simply

negotiate some great deals for them. But I haven’t gone into this just

to do a safe bit of, say, press buying.’



One area that is unclear is how Quantum will fit into clients’ agency

rosters. Longhurst isn’t sure who he’ll replace, or enhance, in the

media mix. ’Umm ... I haven’t quite worked out the answer to that one

yet,’ he confesses. ’Part of the reason that I can’t talk about my

existing clients is that I don’t know how their other media agencies

will see me. But on the creative side, I can see myself teaming up with

the likes of TBWA, St Luke’s, the innovative ones.’



It seems like a very long time ago that Longhurst was in the middle of

an unsavoury wrangle with Ammirati Puris Lintas, of which he was the

media director. Although Longhurst’s departure from Lintas was somewhat

less than amicable, he insists that he wouldn’t have changed a thing. ’I

left at the right time. Had I stuck around and done a deal with them, it

would have been a fudge; I wouldn’t have had the autonomy I would have

needed to steer their media in the right direction.’



He’s been gainfully occupied since leaving Lintas in July. ’I’ve been

getting the business plan together, having meetings, you know.’ Here

Longhurst’s reputation as a slightly off-the-wall type fails him. Didn’t

he learn to belly dance? ’Well, I thought about the jazz guitar ...’ he

tails off.



His wideboy reputation as a tough time buyer was built in part during a

spell at McCann-Erickson in the early 80s, golden years for a department

that then contained Gary Digby, Stuart Butterfield, Simon Lynds and

Nigel Sharrocks. His move to Bates Dorland (after a three-month spell at

MBS) in 1983 brought him into contact with Booth, and his knack for

working with highly regarded media men continued when he joined Bartle

Bogle Hegarty in 1987, where he was Richard Eyre’s number two for six

years. ’The key to the whole media lark is who you work with,’ he

explains. ’At Lintas, I felt a bit like a fish out of water as I wasn’t

working with the kind of people who wanted to be the best.’



Jerry Hill, the chief executive of TSMS, is familiar with Longhurst’s

reputation as an aggressive buyer. ’I’ve known him for 17 years through

a variety of guises,’ Hill says, ’and he has had a very colourful

career.



He was a very tough and thorough time buyer in his early days, but he

has had a very successful reinvention. He’s found a more subtle and

strategic area that is perfect for his fertile mind.’





THE LONGHURST FILE

1979: Lintas, trainee time buyer

1981: McCann-Erickson, TV buyer

1983: MBS, senior time buyer

1983: Bates Dorland, deputy broadcast director

1987: Bartle Bogle Hegarty, broadcast director

1993: Ammirati Puris Lintas, European media director

1996: APL, executive media director 1998 Quantum, co-founder.



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