MEDIA HEADLINER: More’s new chief is one of the boys with a love of outdoors. Alex Games meets Coline McConville in one of More Group’s hygienic interiors

Coline McConville is on time for our interview, but the room we’ve arranged to meet in is occupied, so we wait in the street for a few minutes as the traffic rushes past into the West End. McConville is on a high.

Coline McConville is on time for our interview, but the room we’ve

arranged to meet in is occupied, so we wait in the street for a few

minutes as the traffic rushes past into the West End. McConville is on a

high.



From 1 September she becomes the chief operating officer of More Group,

the outdoor advertising network recently bought by the US-based Clear

Channel. Her role within More, she says, is about to change

substantially.



Over the past two years, she was ’on the hook’ for developing top-line

growth. ’What I’m on the hook for now,’ she says in what must be an

Australian turn of phrase (she’s from Sydney), ’is the bottom line. It’s

all about profits.’



More Group, it should be said, hasn’t exactly been turning a blind eye

to profits. In 1997, says its chief executive, Roger Parry, it grew from

’a UK company with small overseas operations to become a truly global

business,’ making pounds 25.5 million pre-tax profits. As McConville

expands on her new role, the door finally slides open, a rather

relieved-looking man emerges and it’s our turn to go in. Since Adshel,

which is part of More Group, designs ’automatic public conveniences’

among other things, Campaign though it might be a good idea to meet

inside one. To McConville’s credit, she thought it was a great idea.



The door slides shut and we spend a few minutes admiring its high-tech

caterpillar-track floor and hygienically disinfected toilet bowl rim

before walking back to her office in Golden Square, next door to the

famously gleaming white HQ of a certain ad agency. McConville’s new

office is about to be redesigned. Her desk flutters neatly with Post-it

notes. One photograph, of her wedding day a year ago, stands on the

shelf. She says she intends to make it more funky with some cool

posters.



Coline McConville is 34. A brunette in a trouser suit, she cares little

that she has broken into the locker room that is the poster industry.

’I’m almost always the only woman in a room full of men. I bond with

them as well as I do with women. I always have done.’



It must have been that which brought her to the attention of Parry, who,

like her, cut his teeth as a strategic consultant with McKinsey &

Co.



Some observers think that McConville’s new post effectively makes her

Parry’s successor-in-waiting, but she won’t be drawn. ’It’s not my

decision,’ she says. ’There is quite a depth of talent across the board

here, but for now I’ve just been given a very big promotion so I’ll be

flat out for the next two years.’



She is certain that the pounds 446 million takeover by Clear Channel was

preferable to a takeover by JC Decaux, More’s arch-rival. ’If Decaux had

won, this very secretive, family-run company would have had a total

monopoly on the UK and Scandinavian market. And, I imagine, our

management team would have been cleared out.’



The Clear Channel merger means improved international recognition and

easier access to funds for UK acquisitions but, she says, More Group

won’t change dramatically. ’We have just swapped one set of shareholders

for another.’ Together with its US sister company, Eller Media, their

combined revenues of dollars 1 billion make Clear Channel the biggest

outdoor company in the world. ’It’s our ambition to be the biggest in

every market we’re in,’ McConville says, ’and to be in all the markets

worth entering.’



Can one really have a vocation for outdoor loos, bus stops and

back-illuminated billboards, or is it just another business exercise? ’I

live it and breathe it; it’s so infectious and, once you get into it, it

gets completely under your skin,’ she says in what is clearly not a

reference to the importance of good cleaning practice. ’It’s so simple.

It’s not like trying to set up a telecommunications business or a petrol

refinery. It’s win:win. Advertisers love being able to put their

products in high-profile places that give them impact. And

municipalities love being able to save money on providing amenities for

their constituents.’



The poster industry may be ripe for expansion in the US but is the UK

market mature? ’No way,’ she says. ’Outdoor is a 4.6 per cent medium but

I don’t see why it can’t be a 6, 7 or 8 per cent medium. It has come a

long way in two years, but there’s still a lot we can do.’



McConville has never been short of confidence, either for her group or

herself. Half-way down her two-page CV is the statement that she

’successfully completed the first 18 months of Bachelor of Medicine

degree’. Roughly translated, that means she dropped out: it’s just a

question of phraseology.



’All right, I dropped out,’ she says. ’I switched to law, which I really

enjoyed. But I’m not uncomfortable talking about my successes or my

failures. In fact,’ she adds with a sudden flash of inspiration, ’I’m

like a billboard. What you see is what you get.’



THE MCCONVILLE FILE



1989: The LEK Partnership, associate consultant



1994: McKinsey & Co, senior associate, strategic consulting



1996: More Group, group development director



1998: More Group, chief operating officer.



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