MEDIA: HEADLINER; Loyal director emerges from the shade to head MGM Brann

Chelsea FC aside, Robert Ffitch is dedicated to MGM, Gordon MacMillan reports

Chelsea FC aside, Robert Ffitch is dedicated to MGM, Gordon MacMillan

reports



Robert Ffitch, the Manning Gottlieb Media director and the man who will

head up the agency’s new division (Campaign, last week), handling MGM

Brann’s pounds 10 million-plus media business, was the agency’s best-

kept secret - and that was just the way he liked it.



But now the launch of MGM Brann - to handle the direct marketing

agency’s media accounts - has put Ffitch firmly in the spotlight,

something he is not at all keen on. The process of being interviewed for

Campaign seemed to be about as attractive as Chinese water torture to

him. ‘I don’t like this. I like to be in the background with my head

down,’ is how he puts it.



As Richard Britton, the non-broadcast director at CIA Medianetwork,

comments, Ffitch will be mortified by being in the press: ‘He is just

not interested in accolades. He is quiet and understated and always has

been.’



Ffitch gets his kicks, as he admits, from service - service to clients

and service to the agency. And he was the natural person to run MGM

Brann, as he also knows a thing or two about direct marketing.



Ffitch has actually been involved in direct marketing activity for

years. MGM’s first client was the Insurance Service, the direct arm of

Royal Insurance, and Ffitch has worked on it since the days when it was

a CIA Medianetwork client.



He also works on Virgin Direct, Goldfish and FirstMortgage and according

to Mark Chilton, the marketing director of First Mortgage, he is

‘seriously good’.



However, he is also very quick to point out that he is not a direct

marketing specialist. ‘We don’t believe in specialists and we don’t

believe in ghettos. I am not a direct marketing specialist and there

will never be an MGM Direct.’



For MGM, MGM Brann will be a second string agency with a direct media

specialism. Brann wants to use the agency’s skills and expertise in

direct response to win traditional advertising accounts and expand the

business in partnership with MGM.



Ffitch knows just about everything there is to know about MGM. Back in

1990, he was the agency’s first employee. He was at his desk five weeks

before Nick Manning and Colin Gottlieb, the two partners, who were

confined to gardening leave. In that time, Ffitch helped get the agency

going with the assistance of Rebecca, the secretary. ‘Getting paid and

drinking’ is his other way of describing that period.



Since the beginning, Ffitch has been the guy behind the steady helm of

Manning and the Mr Showtime of Gottlieb. He is the engine of MGM,

described as the custodian of the brand by one commentator, and he is

dedicated to the agency. After he had been with MGM a couple of years,

people started telling him he should be looking around, maybe taking a

job elsewhere. But Ffitch was not, and never has been, interested in

working anywhere else. ‘I am a loyal guy and proud of it. Why move if

you are happy? I can’t imagine leaving MGM.’



Mike Ironside, the ad director of the Daily Mail, knows Ffitch well and

believes that he will be at MGM for ever. ‘He is very straight and very

loyal. He drives the agency internally,’ he says.



Shortly before the agency was set up six years ago, Ffitch was offered a

sizeable pay increase by CIA and, with Gottlieb about to resign, there

was likely to be another to follow. The offer was not one MGM could

match.



Gottlieb says: ‘I said I would match Ffitch’s existing salary at CIA but

I told him I could not match what he was likely to be offered once I had

resigned.



He did not flinch. He said ‘I am coming to set up MGM’. I found that

astonishing.’



While known for his loyalty, Ffitch is also seen as one of the toughest

negotiators in the business. Carolyn McCall, the ad director of the

Guardian, says: ‘He was the first person I ever negotiated with when I

was at the Guardian and he was at CIA, and he was a hard negotiator. I

have had some of the trickiest negotiations with Robert, and sometimes

we haven’t done business. But I do think he is fantastic.’



Actually it’s not strictly true when Ffitch says he can’t imagine

leaving MGM. He is holding out for one job offer, and one only.



He is a fanatical Chelsea fan. The football team, that is, not Sloane

Square. And everyone knows it. He gets grumpy when they lose, and can’t

stop talking about it when they win.



Ironside, a fellow Stamford Bridge sufferer, says it’s the only place

the Mail has ever corporately entertained him. So, while Ffitch waits

patiently for the offer of the Chelsea chairmanship to arrive, you know

where to find him.



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The Ffitch file

------------------------------------------------------------------------

1985  CIA, media assistant

1988  CIA, senior planner-buyer

1990  CIA, group head

1990  Manning Gottlieb Media, media manager

1992  MGM, associate director

1994  MGM, board director

1996  MGM, head of MGM Brann

------------------------------------------------------------------------



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