James Smith’s colleagues have been known to accuse him of being ’a
bit weird’. But the Media Planning account director isn’t that odd -
he’s just an emotional media man with a penchant for biographies of
His hobbies - modern art, modern literature and collecting books on the
Russian revolution - are certainly not the usual leisure diet of a media
planner/buyer. And while he points out sagely that there is no ’typical’
media man, he has to acknowledge that he has met very few people in
media buying who share his prediliction for abstract oil paintings.
Smith, who controls around pounds 55 million worth of accounts,
including Orange, Lunn Poly and Pernod Ricard, also confesses that he is
not that bothered about the make of his suit or shoes, doesn’t drink
that much beer and gets ’rather emotional’ about his work.
But that is where he ends this talk of being an odd man out in
’I do drink, it’s just that I tend to go for five or six vodkas, rather
than five or six pints of beer,’ he explains. ’I might not be too
worried about my suits, but I do think it is very important to get the
right shirt (TM Lewins gets his vote) - double cuffed at all times.
’It is true that I am rather uncool when it comes to work,’ he
’But that is just because I care about what I do. I wear my heart on my
sleeve. If we do a great bit of work, it is bloody obvious I’m happy but
when something goes wrong, I do get upset. Being too cool can be a sign
of complacency and arrogance.’
And those are two traits Smith clearly despises. ’Complacency is your
death knell in media. It is not the softest industry in the world. In
the end you’ll get found out if you’re no good.’
As you might expect from someone with such a committed attitude, he
doesn’t suffer media sales fools. All his relationships with media sales
folk are based on long-standing relationships, and he tends to focus on
socialising with his clients - if he socialises at all.
He is far from amused by sales people who simply ’pick up an organogram,
pluck out a name at random and then phone up and expect us to tell them
about our client’s needs’.
You don’t have to know Rothko’s early work, but if you want to sell to
Smith or his team, you’d better not be a time waster.
Outdoor and cinema
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night
Robert Service’s Lenin: A Biography
Unnecessary ’envelope opening’ parties