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
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
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
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
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
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
Pooler did all the grinding groundwork to help the radically
incompatible J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather media understand
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'
They pile on more grittiness points because she's from a Methodist
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.