MEDIA HEADLINER: Media expert briefed to make all WPP's brands work as one - Mandy Pooler has to show the sceptics that she's still hungry, Alasdair Reid says

When Mandy Pooler announced back in January that she was stepping

down from her position as chief executive of MindShare to 'spend more

time with her family', some of the less well-informed cynics in the

industry immediately put two and two together. Many observers were

distinctly unconvinced by Pooler's insistence that she wasn't saying

farewell, she was merely seeking a more accommodating role within the

WPP group.



They couldn't be more wrong, could they? Last week it emerged that

Pooler is indeed staying within the WPP fold - and not in a

semi-charitable sinecure or in a figurehead position either. In a sense

she's going back to where she started a couple of years ago; in her new

role she's once again being asked to drive WPP's media product

forward.



For months, WPP sources have been talking about the importance of

getting all of the group's various global media and research companies

(for instance Millward Brown and Research International) working

together more fruitfully.



Now Pooler will be charged with making it happen in the newly created

role of chief executive of The Channel, WPP Group.



This new role follows the precedent set by WPP's retail knowledge across

the various groups, which have been melded together under The Store, a

virtual community resource. The Channel will seek to do the same thing,

except on a communications and media level. And in addition to this

role, she will spend up to one day a week offering consultancy input to

The Media Edge, the media operation acquired by WPP when it bought Young

&Rubicam.



In total, Pooler will be working for WPP for three days a week.



Insiders say it was the recent Pfizer pitch in the US that convinced WPP

of the need to make its various media and market research units work

together. Now they're determined to make it happen. Pooler says: 'This

role continues WPP's strategy of having expert knowledge across its

companies and across all of its marketing disciplines.'



There are, as always, sceptics, not least at rival media networks. They

admit that Pooler is extremely gifted and this is a desperate attempt to

keep some of that brilliance within the organisation - but, they add,

it's not a real job. She no longer has the same hunger she once had. Her

partner is wealthy and her priorities are genuinely focused on her young

family. That's not the CV of someone charged with genuine responsibility

for making the future happen.



A rival agency head says: 'To my mind she's unconvincing as a stalking

horse for the merger of the The Media Edge into MindShare. That has to

be done - absolutely no doubt about that. They have to bite the bullet

and do that right away. But does she have the required political skills?

In my view, she will have extremely limited impact. The real group job

of co-ordination and integration of the various units has to go to an

American. That's where all the business is in reality. And The Media

Edge, to all intents and purposes, doesn't really exist outside the

US.'



Tough talk is what you'd expect from a rival. Some sources say

integration of The Media Edge isn't really an issue - there's actually

too much client conflict there and WPP is ducking the issue for the

foreseeable future.



There will be a merger of some back-office functions, and Pooler will be

involved in that process.



Approach the MindShare issue from the opposite angle, and it looks

different.



Pooler did all the grinding groundwork to help the radically

incompatible J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather media understand

each other.



What about her political skills? There's a contradictory picture in the

clippings file. As she's retained her Lancashire accent, profile writers

dredge up all sorts of cliches about her being a 'gritty'

northerner.



They pile on more grittiness points because she's from a Methodist

background.



One media head warns against such thinking: 'Yes, she's fun and she

likes her beer and fags. But she's steely when she has to be. I don't

think there's any doubt that she's a heavyweight industry player.'



Mick Desmond, the chief executive of Granada Enterprises, says: 'It's

perhaps true that she has less enthusiasm for the detail than the

strategic vision - and she has to bring in hard-nosed people to make it

work. But getting all the pieces to work together is a job absolutely

made for Mandy. This sort of role is for someone with persuasive

political skills, rather than someone who bangs tables. And no-one

should be in any doubt that Mandy has those political skills.'



THE POOLER FILE



1982: Ogilvy & Mather, media planner



1989: O&M, board director



1992: O&M, media director



1994: O&M Media, managing director



1996: The Network, managing director



1998: MindShare UK, chief executive



2001: The Channel, WPP Group, chief executive.



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