CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE - AD DIRECTORS. What does it take to run GlaxoSmithKline's media?

Agency experience, some political nous and a £40m budget, Mark Sweney says.

It must be a strange feeling handing £40 million pounds over to someone. Yet that is what John Blakemore will do when he hands over the GlaxoSmithkline media reins - and the cheque book - to Andy Bolden in June.

News emerged last week that Bolden had beaten off competition from other senior media figures to suceed Blakemore as GSK's UK ad director and oversee GSK's weighty media budget.

Blakemore, who is retiring, has become something of a legend on the media scene, but his job - and the world - have changed a lot since he took it on 12 years ago, back when the company was still SmithKlineBeecham.

So what challenges does Bolden face in his new role?

Bolden, the former business and client services director at Media-edge:cia, will be responsible for GSK's £40 million media budget - currently centralised with MediaCom - and a portfolio of more than 30 of the company's consumer healthcare brands, including Aquafresh, Macleans, NiQuitin, Beechams, Panadol, Lucozade and Ribena.

The media controller role is increasingly rare at client companies, though it remains in place at the major FMCG conglomerates, from Mars and Unilever, to Procter & Gamble, although there are some differences in the job remit.

Paul Phillips, the director of advertising and media services at the AAR, argues that the media and communications role can be under- resourced: "There is usually someone on the client side responsible for advertising, such as a brand manager or marketing manager, but the focus is more on the creative output," he says. "There aren't as many people specifically in the role of media and communications as both agencies and clients would like."

Phillips adds that tighter budgets mean the media role is slipping down clients' lists of priorities. Ironically, this loss in status comes as the market is more diverse than it has ever been.

"It was a lot easier when there were only five principle media," Phillips says. "But today there are no boundaries to media and that constitutes an opportunity to communicate with the consumer. This should demand greater attention, yet, too often, less and less resource is being put into media on the client side."

As Blakemore points out: "The landscape was very different when I started. There were fewer radio stations and magazines and everyone was wondering if Murdoch would make Sky a success, ITV was hammering the BBC left right and centre and Five wasn't around."

Despite media fragmentation, GSK remains predominantly television-focused, according to Blakemore, but is beginning to use a broader range of media from interactive TV to the internet.

If Bolden is to implement a more flexible media strategy for GSK - and gain the greater value for money this can bring - he will require a skill set far beyond simple number crunching, Martin Sambrook, the global account director at Media Audits, says. "The control of media costs is now a strategic issue, not just housekeeping. Accountability is king. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," he says.

"The old days of agencies thinking media was a soft touch are gone. Media inflation won't make a resurgence. The role has evolved into wider business and requires political skills rather than solely media skills and knowledge."

Another factor that has affected the position is the trend to consolidate media accounts into single global networks, which has trimmed the number of different agencies clients use.

But rather than simplifying matters for advertising directors, Sambrook argues, this consolidation has added a layer of complexity to the business.

He says that instead of having the final say on a strategy in a domestic market, ad directors now have to consult with their overseas counterparts before a decision can be taken.

"In international companies, the role and remit has become more complicated and wide-ranging because companies are getting their act together over best practice in media management," he says. "Global alignment means the focus is now international not local."

Sambrook also argues that media consolidation means the advertising director's role has become more of a strategic one - with a corresponding increase in its impact on the bottom line.

So how will Bolden fit with all of this? Like Blakemore, he comes from an agency background, a common past for advertising directors. Both men also have experience in television buying.

Bolden, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, worked for Young & Rubicam before CIA. Blakemore came to the role via J. Walter Thompson and 21 years at Ogilvy & Mather.

Phillips, who worked with Bolden around five years ago at CIA, sees the appointment as assured. "Andy is a very safe pair of hands. It is nice to see that the good guys do win sometimes."