MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: New management bodes well for PHD bright young stars

When the media industry was young, you could barely move for enthusiastic, puppy-faced media folk with a spring in their loafers and a "one day we'll sell to a multinational holding company", million-pound sparkle in their eyes.

These days you're hard pushed to find a senior executive with anything good to say about the media business, or often even their agency. Perhaps it's understandable. You don't spend weeks making people redundant and arguing money with US headquarters, auditors and client procurement departments without wondering if, at fortysomething and with a plump bank balance, life has something else to offer.

But it's not forgiveable. For an industry oozing with potential for seismic shift, leaders without a lust for success should be put up against a brick wall and fired. Or unshackled and allowed to go back to what they actually love doing. Anything but carry on as the immutable figurehead for an agency full of enthusiastic, talented youngsters excited about the possibilities of developing the media remit.

Which is what PHD is up to with its management restructure. Not that Jonathan Durden falls into the category of frustrated former free spirit, necessarily. Just that he clearly recognises the need to enthuse and empower the next generation of Ps, Hs and Ds and to let younger talent flourish. And I bet he relishes the idea of getting back to what he loves best - bloody smart communications thinking.

Durden, PHD's former chairman and now the stately president (tongue firmly in cheek when he orders the new business cards, I'm sure), is handing over the management reins to a new triumvirate: Morag Blazey, Louise Jones and Mark Holden, under the canny motherly gaze of Tess Alps, who moves up to chairman.

The tricky thing, though, is how to motivate the next generation when economic pressures are high and hard-won rewards are never likely to reach the zenith enjoyed by the original PHD generation. With twentysomethings no longer wedded to a job (or even career) for life, retaining talent and seeding tomorrow's chiefs is a challenge. At PHD, the answer seems to be a cultural one - promotion from within the family, with media thinking, not simply making the numbers, at the heart.

Of course, Omnicom has stringent targets for PHD (although of all the holding companies, Omnicom is the most protective of the entrepreneurial culture of its purchases). And as the managing director, Blazey will feel the weight of these ambitions. But the new management underlines that two-thirds of what PHD is about, at the highest level, is strategic and creative thinking. As ever.

More importantly than this tending of the agency roots, though, is the quiet recognition that without new ideas and enthusiasm injected right at the core, those roots can wither. Pattison, Horswell and Durden were stars of their generation. It's time for others to shine.

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