Feature

TV's McGeough dreams of conquering radio with Capital

Don't tell John McGeough he can't transplant his skills to radio. Anna Griffiths reports

In the New Year, Manning Gottlieb OMD's local, The Devonshire, will be missing the familiar, cigar-smoking figure of John McGeough. Instead, he will be sampling the wares of hostelries found in and around Leicester Square, when he takes up the role of group sales director at Capital Radio.

News that McGeough is to become "Mr Radio" is a surprise to those who know him, since he has always been labelled as a TV man in the past. One media source comments: "He doesn't know much about radio, but it's probably positive to have someone with an unblinkered media approach to move into the world of radio."

McGeough, who is mildly irritated that he even has a label, is keen to show the media pack that he can transplant his skills anywhere: "I'm keen to break the stereotype very early on -- I want to get into media where I can make a difference."

Although most of his career has been on the TV trading side, he points out that when he first joined Lowe Howard-Spink he was a media planner working across all platforms, while his present job at Manning Gottlieb as the media trading director means he's responsible for buying and trading issues across all media.

Linda Grant, Capital's commercial managing director in London, has picked McGeough to work alongside the radio veteran Mike Hope-Milne, Capital's brand sales director, and new recruit Gavin Miller, who is the commercial marketing director. Grant has restructured the London-based national sales operation - while agencies can continue to liaise with the group sales team about Capital's many different brands, they can also talk to a specialised sales team focusing on a particular brand. Grant wants McGeough to build strong relationships with agencies and advertisers across Capital's portfolio of brands, which include the networks Capital FM, Century, Capital Gold and Xfm.

Grant says: "He's not a radio man, but he has been a broadcast man. The role of TV and broadcast departments has increased in the planning and buying of radio. I want him to get under the skin of the business. There are lots of activities behind the scenes, connecting business and commercial strategy -- I want him to galvanise all of that and bring it into action."

McGeough is confident he can take new skills to Capital's mix, particularly understanding agency needs and talking to them in the right language. "I can bring huge experience on the agency side, and know what buttons to press. Some sales people have a tendency to talk to you about their products, but media agencies are bogged down with their own work. You need to talk to them about their business and how we can approach clients with the best overall plan."

After three years working at Granada, McGeough left the media owner side to be more involved in the controlling and making of ads. McGeough recalls: "I wanted to be the one doing the shouting, rather than being shouted at." Life evidently suited him on that side of the fence, ploughing the agency furrow for 12 years at Lowe and Manning Gottlieb.

He is described by colleagues as a "mathematical genius" and a "good listener" when it comes to clients, as well as having "a fantastic dry wit, the likes of which you won't see again on the media side". He may not be a TV Rottweiler like the Nick Theakstones and Ian Lomases of this world, but he's a respected operator. Nick Manning, the chief executive of Manning Gottlieb OMD, says: "He's talented and very good with people. Technically, he's one of the best operators in the market."

Mick Desmond, the joint managing director of ITV, who was McGeough's boss at Granada back in the late 80s, believes he will deliver at Capital. "John's a bright guy, very rounded, quite an intellectual individual. He was always very ambitious here."

McGeough dismisses the suggestion that he decided to leave Manning Gottlieb because the merger of the agency's buying with OMD meant a narrowing of his role and says that it actually helped to add to his role. His decision to join Capital was because he saw a great opportunity: "It's a new challenge and the skills are complementary to mine -- trading, talking to people about their communications plans -- and it's a great brand."

Although he will not join Capital before Christmas, McGeough happily rattles off a list of what he'd like to achieve in his first year: "I want to increase the revenue of the station and make absolutely sure that all the people who might be able to spend money have considered radio and Capital are on their schedules."

At 39, he hasn't ended up in a bad place, considering that at the outset of his career path he struggled as a trainee manager at Homebase for four long months. But, of course, the one downside to returning to the media owner fold is that he could get shouted at again.

The McGeough file

1988 Granada Sales, sales executive

1991 Lowe Howard-Spink, media planner/buyer, rising to broadcast manager

1997 Manning Gottlieb, broadcast director, rising to media trading director

2003 Capital Radio, group sales director

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