MEDIA HEADLINER: Incorruptible 'Scotweiler' has bite as Ofcom ITV adjudicator

Connolly's principles make him a wise choice for Ofcom position, Jeremy Lee writes.

David Connolly has been described as a "cartoon Jock". It's certainly true that if (and obviously only in the secrecy of your own home) you were constructing a Scottish stereotype, you'd probably come up with something resembling him - red hair, pasty skin, occasionally fiery temper, near-incomprehensible accent ... he's got the lot.

But, according to his peers, he's also got integrity in spades. This is absolutely vital given the job that he has just been given. "He can be pretty fiery and he gets upset about injustices," one says. Sounds like just the man for the job of Ofcom's independent TV adjudicator employed to referee trading disputes between agencies, advertisers and the merged ITV.

There's a story that seems to sum up Connolly's qualities. It was during one of his regular visits to Parkhead, the home of his beloved Celtic.

Connolly found not one but two people squeezed into his allocated seat and, despite his protestations, the pair of hardened east-end Glaswegians refused to budge. Most people, sensing the potential for trouble, would have left it there. But, outraged at this, Connolly, no trembling petal himself, threatened to call over the police to eject the pair if they did not leave of their own accord. Given that he was caught in a throng of Celtic fans, traditionally not the strongest supporters of the law, it was a brave move. But it worked.

With his new job, Connolly's inherent sense of what's right and wrong will be called into play and this time he has been given control of the truncheon. Connolly was on holiday in Australia and was not available for comment.

It would be easy to judge Connolly by first impressions but his contemporaries say that, in fact, he is actually rather cultured and intensely bright.

He is passionate about his work to the point of obsession and does not suffer fools gladly, hence the confusion between passion and aggression.

One sales rep remembers going in to see Connolly and having strips torn off him. "If you hadn't done your homework, he'd crucify you. He's not one for holding fire if something is rubbish," he recalls.

Although very much a media professional, Connolly could have had a career as a professional footballer - he used to play for the Scottish club Clydebank and is still a useful player to this day.

Connolly is best known for his long career at Starcom Motive. He departed the agency in October, ending a 12-year association.

He left without a job to go to but with a rumoured two years of salary as a pay-off he had no fear of being on his uppers. His new job provides him with a stipend in excess of £100,000 a year for an average three-day week, so he will be able to keep his wife and son in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

His departure from Starcom Motive seemed rather sudden. For several years, he had been part of the management team led by Mark Cranmer, the Starcom MediaVest Group chief executive of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The break was apparently amicable.

Although Connolly would probably not welcome the comparison, observers note the similarities between him and Cranmer. Both display an almost obsessive passion about their work and both, to be frank, are scary figures.

During his time working alongside Cranmer, Connolly acquired the name "Sideshow Connolly", a reference to The Simpsons, with Cranmer known as "Krusty the Klown". Connolly has also been dubbed "the Scotweiler" because of his tenacity in negotiations.

Connolly has also spent time on the other end of the telephone at Scottish Television as a sales group head before joining IDK. His media career began as a sales executive selling space in titles such as Nursing Mirror.

His appointment as adjudicator follows an interview process involving the Ofcom chief executive, Stephen Carter, the Independent Television Commission's Patricia Hodgson and the chairman of Billetts, John Billett.

While the manner of Connolly's appointment may have been controversial, interested parties are pleased Ofcom ended up with the right man for the job and broadcasters, agencies and advertisers have welcomed his appointment.

Given the importance of his role, Connolly is expected to fulfil his duties in the style of Pierluigi Collina, the tough but respected Italian referee, and not the South African rugby referee Andre Watson who oversaw the Rugby World Cup final with some dodgy calls.

"I've always found David to be extremely principled and committed and I'm not in the least bit concerned about his ability to stand his ground with ITV or an agency," Nick Milligan, the deputy chief executive of five, says.

Any suggestion Connolly would show any fear or favour to any party or use the information he has acquired to get himself another job are strongly disputed. In short, Connolly, who has been immersed in the currency of TV trading and has the balls to manage the process, is said to be incorruptible.

THE CONNOLLY FILE

1991: Leo Burnett, broadcast director to joint media director

1999: Starcom, joint managing director

2000: Starcom Motive, executive director of European operations

2003: Starcom Motive, vice-chairman

2003: Ofcom, ITV adjudicator

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