The toilet walls at New PHD are covered in Campaign articles. It’s
not that the agency is out of Andrex (as it claims), but that it likes
to keep pride in its achievements out of sight. No-one lives out this
philosophy more forcefully than the agency’s chief executive, David
Pattison, who, despite being the ’P’ in New PHD, has a minimal presence
in the ladies loos.
All this is set to change as Pattison is thrust into the media spotlight
as head of the new global media network, PhD. The initiative has been
taken by Omnicom Media Group, which wants to combine its independent
media planning and buying agencies into an international media
Meanwhile, its sister agency, BMP OMD, is rebranding as OMD UK. The aim
of the restructure is to strengthen OMD’s presence in markets where it
has independent media shops.
Pattison is not only nervous about the task ahead but about Campaign’s
interview. ’I’ve never done this before,’ he says sheepishly as I enter
his purple-walled offices. He immediately comes across as approachable
and unassuming, aided by his casual look - a sweatshirt - and his
barrow-boy accent. (He has never lived more than 11 miles from his home
patch of Camberwell, South London.)
It’s hard to believe that this is the ’amazing strategic brain’ I’d
heard so much about and the man who was tipped for the ITV chief
But Pattison has a knack of making you feel at ease, which may explain
his reputation for being brilliant with clients. ’He’s self-effacing and
puts clients at ease because he’s a normal person rather than someone
from advertising,’ Mike Ironside, managing director of The Mail on
New PHD’s founding partner Jonathan Durden also refers to his
salt-of-the-earth nature. ’He’s very honest, which is why clients trust
him. He’s not undiplomatic but ’freshly blunt’. He’ll always give an
opinion, even if it’s not the one you want to hear,’ he says.
But Pattison refuses to take all the credit for the agency’s
’We are a triumvirate and none of it would have been possible without
Jonathan and Nick.’
Durden, who was joint media director with Pattison at WCRS Mathews
Marcantonio, and Nick Horswell, who was media director at FCO, set up
PHD in 1990.
The agency scooped high-profile accounts such as The Guardian and
Midland Bank and quickly built a reputation as one of the most
innovative media operations around.
It was snapped up by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in 1996, when it became
New PHD. Since then it has built up its reputation as a media agency
with strong strategic planning credentials.
But the agency is now ready for the next stage of its development, which
is in the international arena. Omnicom’s global media network launches
on 1 April and incorporates Advanswers and Creative Media in the US,
HYPN in Canada and New PHD in the UK, under the banner of PhD.
Pattison’s task is to build and expand the network, initially in
He says it is too early to say which companies he has his eye on, but
stresses that he will not be buying for the sake of it.
’We will take a different approach by finding the right people and
giving them the resources to establish new companies, whether they be
sponsorship businesses, a programming ideas business or a strategic
unit. We also hope it will be driven by clients - that we will build
businesses around their needs,’ he says.
What Pattison is keen to ensure is that New PHD retains its strong
identity and will not be subsumed by a big global network. ’The idea is
to use the skills of local companies and weld them together rather than
have a huge centre that tells everyone what to do.’
This may not be easy. OMD is renowned for its politics and the fact that
a single OMD brand was mooted suggests that some will not be happy with
the existing arrangement. There may also be in-fighting over which will
be the lead planning agency. But Pattison dismisses this: ’The network
has the full support of John Wren (Omnicom’s president and chief
executive) and he is committed to putting resources behind it.’
It will certainly be a challenge for Pattison and he has three years in
which to prove himself. He is confident, however, because of his good
fortune so far. ’I genuinely believe I have a guardian angel looking
after me,’ he says. It is this, he insists, combined with a love of
problem-solving rather than natural intelligence that explains his
THE PATTISON FILE
1974: Masius Wynne-Williams & D’Arcy MacManus, TV buying assistant
1975: Doyle Dane Bernbach, TV buyer
1978: Grey Advertising, TV planner/buyer
1980: TBWA, head of TV buying
1983: John Ayling & Associates, media planner/buyer
1985: WCRS, joint media director
1990: Pattison Horswell Durden, managing partner New PHD, chief
2000: PhD, chief executive.