Media: Headliner - MGM founder keeps personal touch after decade at the top/Colin Gottlieb has resisted pressure to become a suit. He talks to Eleanor Trickett

To anyone who knows Colin Gottlieb, the pain invoked by not being allowed to talk about his latest coup is palpable. Every now and then, a strange look spreads across his face - not unlike a baby preparing to fill its nappy - and a fit of Tourette’s comes upon him. ’For Gawd’s sake, that’s off the record!’ he squawks as he claps his hand over his mouth and raises his eyes skywards.

To anyone who knows Colin Gottlieb, the pain invoked by not being

allowed to talk about his latest coup is palpable. Every now and then, a

strange look spreads across his face - not unlike a baby preparing to

fill its nappy - and a fit of Tourette’s comes upon him. ’For Gawd’s

sake, that’s off the record!’ he squawks as he claps his hand over his

mouth and raises his eyes skywards.



Poor old Gottlieb. Ten years he’s waited for a Campaign profile and, now

the time is upon him, he’s not allowed to admit that he, as the joint

founder of Manning Gottlieb Media, has engineered a pan-European media

plan for Nissan, created a new company called TBWA.OMD and installed

himself as the boss.



This is one of the biggest things to have happened to the agency since

its birth at a lunch table with backers Simons Palmer ten years ago.

Yet, as always, the agency will likely as not retain its cute but

entrepreneurial identity.



Some agencies were born old and big. Others can reach their tenth

birthday and push huge amounts of money around, and still cart out the

founding partners on the day-to-day business.



While sitting in his office, a call comes through which serves as a

reminder that while Gottlieb is in charge, MGM won’t lose its intimate

spirit. After his months of top-level negotiation with Omnicom and

Nissan, Gottlieb has a life-or-death conversation with a client who

spends less than pounds 2 million a year. ’He’s not at all lofty, and

always turns up for meetings,’ Rainey Kelly/Y&R’s co-creative director,

Robert Campbell, attests. ’I can’t be cocky,’ Gottlieb lies unwittingly

as he puts the phone down.



But MGM has to change this year, and the partners are doing some serious

head-scratching. A dilemma approaches as Gottlieb points out: ’Can you

grow without changing? We’re doing pounds 200 million a year and haven’t

changed. But can we do that at pounds 400 million? No.’



Growth is essential, however, so that no client wants to leave for a

bigger agency. ’Our clients are all prime targets,’ he adds, looking

around gratefully at the Nike, Virgin and Sony PlayStation logos

adorning the office walls.



Whatever the plan is, his labyrinthine ponderings mask it beautifully,

and I am none the wiser. You won’t see many donkeys with their hind legs

still intact when there’s a Gottlieb in the room. Get him on the end of

the phone and you know you’ll have executed a perfect manicure by the

time he’s got to the point.



But this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Gottlieb. An overgrown

bulldog puppy, cute and playful, totally unaware of his own

strength.



One wag of his tail, a cuff of his mutton-chop paws and he could take

out an entire building. If he approaches you with arms outstretched, you

can kiss your lunch goodbye.



It is impossible to imagine Gottlieb scaling the vertiginous heights of

the OMD ladder. He’s a pathologically loyal husband and father, and has

no interest in spending his life in a Virgin 747 halfway across the

Atlantic. He doesn’t act, or look, like Corporate Man (MediaCom TMB’s

chief executive, Stephen Allan, says he looks more like a cabbie).



Mainly, though, he doesn’t need to. It’s a subject we don’t touch upon,

but it’s clear that he’s loaded. Not ostentatiously - unless you include

the Ferrari Maranello - but he could quite happily play golf in Hadley

Wood for the rest of his days. In fact, he could probably buy Hadley

Wood.



Gottlieb reminisces for quite some time about the difference selling to

Omnicom for pounds 12 million in 1997 made to his life. This is clearly

a man who will never forget his roots, or how lucky he is to have got

where he is today - even though serious hard graft answers for a hefty

chunk of it.



Perhaps accordingly, he holds little truck with OMD’s keenness to

redecorate MGM with its own colours. He realises, of course, that the

network has an issue with its lack of coherent identity in the UK, but

in his normal, calling-a-spade-a-bastard kind of way, he says: ’That’s

just not my problem - my priority is to Nike, not to OMD. Though I am

happy to help solve it.’



There is no doubt that the formation of TBWA.OMD will go some way to

boosting OMD’s profile in the UK as well as across Europe. Finally, TBWA

will have the same sort of resource as its sisters, BBDO and DDB, and to

see TBWA.OMD pitching for other business is expected. In that way,

Gottlieb has helped solve the problem.



But anyone expecting to find him spending all his time chewing the fat

with network heads will be sorely disappointed. Not while there’s a

kiddie’s birthday party to attend, or a new toy to be had.



The Gottlieb file

1979

Time Buying Services, general assistant

1984

Chris Ingram Associates, non-broadcast planner-buyer

1987

Chris Ingram Associates, associate director

1989

CIA Billett & Company, director

1990

Manning Gottlieb Media, co-founder



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).