The past few days have been eventful for the BBC. First it calls a
review of its media account, held by PHD. Then came the announcement by
the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, over its digital future.
Many at the BBC were surprised and disappointed by Jowell's decision to
block the launch of BBC3, the corporation's "youth" channel. Sharing
that sense of disappointment is David Grint, the BBC's head of brand
marketing, who would have been handed a hefty budget to launch the new
Actually, Grint's full title is "head of marketing - planning, strategy
and brand guardianship". Essentially, he manages agency relationships
for the BBC and ensures the consistency of message across the various
The role that Grint plays at the BBC is somehow emblematic of the way in
which it is attempting to change. Along with Andy Duncan, the
corporation's recently hired marketing director, Grint comes with a
strong commercial background in FMCG marketing. After spells at Bass,
Boots and Coca-Cola, he joined the BBC two years ago as it attempted to
pull together its diverse marketing operations into something more
streamlined and commercially focused.
Grint says: "The BBC is a very creative organisation but what my
background brings is marketing discipline. A lot of the processes and
discipline at Coca-Cola are second to none and while the BBC is not
trying to copy that model exactly, it does help."
PHD handles planning and buying across the BBC's press, ambient and
outdoor activity. A key part of the appointed agency's role will be to
work closely with the BBC's own internal planning team, which plans the
corporation's radio, TV and online activity.
So what is Grint looking for from agencies? "First, people who work well
with internal services. Second, agencies that are very good at what they
do and get great value; not necessarily the cheapest agency but ones
that can provide the best for the BBC. Particularly important is that
agencies must believe in what the BBC does and fit with the BBC
Grint's need to find agencies that gel with the BBC explains last year's
protracted creative agency pitch, which saw Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO,
Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters and Fallon being selected for the
The BBC's roster agencies agree with Grint that the corporation has its
own culture that must be understood and admired. Michael Finn, the chief
executive of DFGW, says: "The BBC needs more external influence.
Agencies are full of bright ideas but if you are working in an
organisation that conflicts with the BBC, then the benefits will be
Most agree that Grint will look for these bright ideas and good strategy
from the selected agency or agencies. However, it seems that he spends
much of his time smoothing over issues internally. Finn says: "All the
best clients are honest and open and David matches up. He is results
oriented and gets things done."
Cilla Snowball, the managing director at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, says:
"David is a great motivator and navigator. The BBC is vast and complex.
David understands how to manage the agency through that and gets the
best out of its skills."
Undoubtedly Grint's Coca-Cola experience has helped him deal with the
complexities of the BBC's structure. Gareth Kay, a senior planner at BMP
DDB and previously a board account planner at DFGW on the BBC, describes
him as a "good balance of vision and pragmatism".
Grint will start the media review in a month's time. But it seems he
would have liked to have worked with agencies on launching BBC3. He
says: "My understanding is that it is not necessarily dead. People are
disappointed but we have not given up and will work hard to take it
forward in some form."
In the meantime, Grint says that the BBC's marketing spend will increase
as it launches new services, including BBC4 and digital radio channels,
and aims to educate licence-payers about the move from analogue to
Although he is submerged in these broadcasting issues, Grint is at heart
a traditional marketer.
Instead of attending last week's Royal Television Society gathering in
Cambridge, he was at an IPA event. So pitching agencies are likely to
find a sound, likeable client rather than a media firebrand.