Colin Gottlieb isn’t actually clucking but the gaze he bestows on
the new partner, Alison Wright, of his agency, Manning Gottlieb Media,
is so full of avuncular pride that I can almost see feathers sprouting
from his broad shoulders.
The culmination of months of planning, searching and negotiating is
sitting on his right. Wright, a former partner at HHCL & Partners, is
nodding enthusiastically and injecting rapier-sharp ideas and opinions
into the conversation.
On Gottlieb’s left, however, is a gap roughly the size of another
partner, whose identity remains unknown due to various hiccups and false
But although the chair is empty for now, the exhaustive search process
has at least sharpened MGM’s resolve and honed Gottlieb’s and Nick
Manning’s ideas of what is required to take the agency into its next ten
To dwell on the absence of this last partner would be to do an injustice
to Wright, who is the proverbial shot in the arm required by an agency
that is far from jaded, but by nature constantly looking for the next
MGM’s mission statement is five pages long, but Wright’s brief can be
encapsulated in a few words: achieve innovation in communication for
clients over and above what other media agencies are offering.
In short, Wright sits at the ideas and strategy end of the spectrum with
’partner number four’ at the statistical and modelling end - applying
the knowledge that Wright’s work will throw up.
Sound familiar? Let’s not forget that there is one big difference in
MGM’s move: Wright has a pure, unadulterated above-the-line
An unconventional move to say the least and one, perhaps, which is
testament to the almost unique appeal of MGM.
Wright explains that the advertising industry’s surprise is a compliment
to HHCL. ’It might be a strange move for someone to leave TBWA to go to
a media agency, but not HHCL.’
Wright joined HHCL to work on the AA business, moving on to the team
that pitched for, and won, the Pearl account. Her most recent task was
for Britvic, developing the ’untypical for HHCL’ campaign for Robinsons
Fruit and Barley range.
Her job is partially outlined in the mission statement: ’Alison will be
responsible for developing MGM’s understanding of consumer needs and
patterns of behaviour. She will bring her broad account handling
experience to bear on the business background to communications issues
and the consumer and brand-based routes to solutions ... including the
ability to develop creative briefs which encourage innovation in
People like Wright don’t come cheap, so Gottlieb explains why the
investment was made. ’We still have to buy a discount off station, the
best billboards, the best magazine space, but clients want to know how
to create differentiation. We have to go one step further and for that,
we are making a major investment. This isn’t just a back door to new
It is more than likely that Wright’s arrival will spark a number of
me-too moves from other agencies, although it is also likely that some
may miss the point.
Indeed, Gottlieb and Wright are amused by the number of people who get
the wrong end of the stick and ask whether MGM is about to start
producing creative work.
What her role is supposed to do is bring media forward to an earlier
stage in a client’s strategy. ’What I am bringing from the creative side
is an ability to look at communication, rather than execution or
medium,’ she says.
’I have a feeling for brands, and can look at how people make decisions.
Nowadays, media planning can’t come after message planning as it is more
complex than just plugging the creative idea into a media channel.’
But however much MGM is keen to not have Wright’s appointment
interpreted as a fandangly pitching tool, new business does come into
’We do need to upgrade our new-business offer,’ Gottlieb
admits, ’as we have recently found it to be a bit of a distraction,
which isn’t healthy. The biggest task in a pitch is to reach a point of
view. Clients don’t just want to see numbers and case histories - they
want an answer and, with Alison’s help, that should be easier and more
He adds, glowing: ’A partner from the agency whose chairman is the
president of the IPA has come here. We’re trying to say that our
business is growing up and being taken more seriously. But the overall
beauty of it is that nobody has the answer.’
THE WRIGHT FILE
Grey Advertising, graduate trainee
Bainsfair Sharkey Trott, account manager
HHCL & Partners, account director
HHCL & Partners, partner
Manning Gottlieb Media, partner