MEDIA: HEADLINER - The Media Edge chief leaves Europe for life in the Big Apple. Charles Courtier plans to boost the agency's global credentials

The trip across the Atlantic is not all plain sailing for Charles

Courtier. His recent promotion from the post of managing director of

Europe, the Middle East and Africa at The Media Edge to the role of

global chief operating officer has left him with a pressing problem.

Namely, finding somewhere to live for his family in his new base in New

York.



Courtier sounds cool under the pressure as he speaks of spending the

past few days tramping around the well-heeled upstate district of

Westchester to find a house. However, the real task will begin when he

takes over the reins at The Media Edge in several weeks' time.



Courtier, 40, launched The Media Edge across the EMEA region where he

was responsible for 37 markets. However, his task now is more

challenging as he works with the chairman, Beth Gordon, in moving The

Media Edge forward under WPP's ownership.



Courtier joined Y&R in the early 90s and worked as a regional director

in central and eastern Europe. He has built up a serious knowledge of

the European media scene and also of smaller markets in the EMEA region

and has been asked to bring this to bear on strengthening The Media Edge

globally.



The conventional wisdom is that The Media Edge (the world's

seventh-largest media operation in terms of billings) is strong in the

US (where it is the fifth-largest media operation) but weaker in Europe

and Asia (in Europe, it is 11th).



Courtier blames 'lazy journalists' for this perception, but admits there

is work to do. His aim is to build The Media Edge in all markets: 'We

must function as a genuine global network. In truth, many media agencies

don't. We are better than most but there may be room for

improvement.'



Courtier says a key part of his role will be to build closer

collaboration with WPP's other major media network, MindShare.

Speculation was rife when WPP acquired Y&R that The Media Edge would be

merged with MindShare, which is seen as strong in the markets where The

Media Edge is weak but has less of a US presence. Courtier says a merger

was never on the cards.



He will work with Gordon to find ways of collaborating with

MindShare.



He says: 'There is fantastic potential. The plan is to create a media

holding company within which will sit the WPP media properties. This is

work in progress but there will be two networks and two management

teams.'



The collaboration with MindShare is likely to involve closer work on

research and support services. More importantly, Courtier says, 'in some

cases it may involve working with MindShare on buying'. This may be

particularly interesting in the UK and France where The Media Edge has

no buying operation and has used Media Planning Group.



As Courtier points out, this relationship only persists in two markets

but it seems unlikely to last for much longer following the WPP deal.

MindShare's appointment to work on the film company UIP's UK buying

earlier this year is the first example of such a move.



MindShare is keen to work closely with The Media Edge. Dominic Proctor,

chief executive of MindShare Worldwide, says: 'We will be working

closely together. The media business is about volume and this puts us in

a strong position.'



There are some critics, however, of The Media Edge's true potential and

of Courtier's ability. One global agency chief says: 'It seems strange

to take Charles from running a ragbag operation in Europe to the role of

worldwide head.'



However, Courtier himself is relishing the move to New York, his first

US posting, and claims to bring some much needed experience of smaller

markets to the States. 'I do bring a broad international perspective,'

he says. 'When running a global network not all countries are like those

in North America. The vast majority are smaller and I come with

experience of EMEA, which is typical of the global situation.'



Proctor says: 'Charles is the right guy for the job. The qualities

required are an odd mixture of passion for the media business and

commercial acumen. Charles clearly has both.'



WPP has hired a safe pair of hands in handing Courtier the global

reigns.



This is clearly its first priority after the ousting of the global

strategy chief, Paul Woolmington, at the end of last year. Gordon, who

is remaining with The Media Edge as global chairman, will concentrate on

developing strategy and finding ways of working with other WPP

companies. Courtier says they already have a good relationship: 'Over

the past couple of years, Beth and I have worked closely together. I

need her experience in the chairman's role and somebody to guide me

through the North American plumbing.'



It will be interesting to see if Courtier achieves his goal of turning

The Media Edge into a truly global network. Much will depend on how the

developments with MindShare work out.



THE COURTIER FILE



1989: Horizons Media, account director



1991: Y&R Media, regional director (central and eastern Europe)



1993: Y&R Media Europe, European media director and managing

director



1998: The Media Edge, managing director, Europe, the Middle East and

Africa



2001: The Media Edge, global chief operating officer.



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