A view from the top
A view from Sir Chris Powell

A view from the top

The view from the top of the age range is, amazingly, of some sort of "life after advertising". Among many other things that I enjoyed in my agency days was poking my nose into other people's business.

This you can carry on doing under the cover of being a non-executive director.

The kindly folk at Adam & Eve/DDB still provide an office that Martin Boase, James Best and I share, and that’s my default base. But, mostly, I’m out and about. My toehold in advertising is Asbof, where the current battle is to persuade website owners and the digital media of the threat of an "OfAd" replacing self-regulation if they don’t contribute – as the rest of the advertising world does – to the 0.1 per cent levy that pays for the Advertising Standards Authority.

While there (Asbof cohabits with the Advertising Association), I would normally have a chat with Tim Lefroy about this and about Riverside Studios, where we are both trustees. The studios are embarking on a huge redevelopment and fundraise – but he is off to New York to speak at a conference, so no chat this time.

I have a coffee with the lead partner at Parcelgenie (the start-up that allows you to send real little gifts while texting). He’s off to base himself closer to our corporate partners in Silicon Valley and we’re in the market for a bright entrepreneur to run the UK consumer business and be a third partner. Poverty wages now – by top advertising standards – but the chance of a big payout, if anyone fancies it.

This week, I go into BETC (Neil Dawson was a bit of a star at BMP DDB) for a chat. I’m a sucker for the enthusiasm of bright young talent.

Tuesday, I meet with the chief executive of Dr Foster – the company that blew the whistle on Mid Staffs. It provides hospitals with comparative data on their performance to help them improve – but it makes for an odd client relationship with hospitals as, quite often, we publicise their flaws.

There’s a telephone conference call with some PricewaterhouseCoopers people (I’m on its advisory board) about how best to use its enormous client experience to give individual clients a better picture of their future.

At lunch, I bump into a fellow member of the Portland PR advisory board. We’re not clear that we give it any useful advice, but it seems to be growing very rapidly without it!

In the evening, there is a meeting of the Institute for Public Policy Research trustees. It has a huge programme at party conferences and does a great amount of good in thinking through how public policy can best develop. It’s like being with a bunch of bright young planners, right down to the greased-up hair.

Later in the week, there’s a meeting of those Alzheimer’s Society trustees who advise on external affairs.

The Government has begun to take notice of this terrible scourge, but there is much more to do to broaden public support to a scale that the problem deserves. Brilliantly, some leading members of Wacl are lending support.

I don’t do Fridays; there doesn’t seem much point in being old if you can’t have a decently long weekend. The skills of the advertising trade are much more widely appreciated these days and that makes it a lot easier for us inquisitive old folk to stay off the streets. But sensible people would probably prefer to retire.

Sir Chris Powell is the chairman of Asbof and a former chief executive of BMP DDB

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