Tim Ledgard helped develop the first doggie toothbrush, and, at the
moment, only occasionally ever uses the internet. He is, he cheerfully
admits, an unlikely new-media evangelist.
What’s more, Ledgard has never worked for a media or internet
His time has been spent entirely in FMCG marketing. He worked in dog
snacks, then in confectionery, both at Mars Pedigree, and latterly for
Duchy Originals, the top-end, mostly organic product range made under
the aegis of the Prince of Wales.
Yet Ledgard has been hired as the new head of marketing at BBC Online,
the most visited website in Europe. And listening to this engaging man
outlining his credentials, he soon begins to look like exactly the right
man for the job.
’It’s true I don’t have any media experience, but there is real breadth
to the experience I have in marketing,’ he says. ’And, to my mind,
marketing consists of understanding what the consumer is looking for and
then looking at ways of delivering it to them. That’s what I’ll be doing
at the BBC.
The product I’m dealing with at the BBC will be radically different to
what I’m used to, but hopefully I can learn all about it from the talent
there. And, hopefully too, I will be bringing something different that
they can learn from as well.’
Refreshingly, Ledgard is not somebody looking to the internet as his
passport to The Sunday Times’ Rich List. And, given the BBC’s reputation
for a certain parsimony in its pay, that’s probably no bad thing. In
fact, he identifies two quite different factors that initially attracted
him to the job.
The first was an hour spent in the persuasive company of the woman who
will be his immediate superior at the corporation - Sue Farr, the
director of BBC public service marketing. The second was the fact that
he would be continuing to work outside the private sector, with an
institution for which the bottom line is not entirely financial.
’The BBC is still a corporation and I like that. However competitive it
has to be in today’s marketplace, it’s still not like taking a job at
Sky,’ Ledgard says. ’In a way, I felt that it was a continuation of my
public sector work.’
His interest in public service developed during a year spent travelling
overland to China with his then partner, also a former Mars
’When I got back to the UK in Christmas 1997, I took some time off just
to build kit cars and to catch up with friends and purposefully didn’t
rush back into a marketing job for a big corporation,’ he says.
’And when the head-hunter rang about the Duchy Originals position, it
seemed like an opportunity to combine lots of things that had become
interesting to me - charity, environmentalism and the organic market.
And the thing about the BBC job that attracted me most was the fact that
this was an opportunity to work for a public service institution.’
Ledgard’s CV certainly makes for impressive reading, even if it doesn’t
run as smoothly as some of his contemporaries’. He took his year off to
go travelling at the relatively late age of 32, for instance.
But what’s perhaps more remarkable is the fact that, having backpacked
his way across land to China, he then headed for the nearest department
store, bought something halfway decent to wear and went to see the old
Mars colleague who was running things in Beijing. He quickly landed the
job of running the marketing department in China, turning it from a
dollars 40 million operation to one worth dollars 60 million in the nine
months he stayed there.
Ledgard won’t be drawn on plans for BBC Online but explains that he will
be in charge of internet and interactive TV marketing at Online, that he
has to oversee its next stage of growth, that he has nothing at all to
do with the commercial online service, beeb.com, and that his remit is,
for the moment at least, UK focused.
’The task facing me at the BBC obviously isn’t anything like Beijing or
the rebuilding I did at Duchy Originals, because this is already the
biggest website in Europe, but it is the fastest moving part of a
corporation that is changing rapidly all the time, and change is
something I am familiar with as an FMCG marketer.’
THE LEDGARD FILE
1986: Brand manager, Thomas’ Petfood
1991: European franchise manager, Mars Confectionery, Germany
1993: Group brand manager, Mars Confectionery
1995: Travelling overland to China
1996: Marketing director, Mars Confectionery, Beijing
1998: Managing director, Duchy Originals
2000: Head of marketing, BBC Online.