In September this year, Malcolm Earnshaw, one of the most senior
marketing executives at Mars, will retire after more than 33 years with
the company to become the new director-general of ISBA.
Having beaten Bob Wootton, ISBA’s own director of media and advertising
affairs, in a final head to head, Earnshaw will say goodbye to one of
the most successful global blue-chip companies and take on one of the
industry’s most active trade associations.
He inherits the post from John Hooper who, after six years in the job,
is widely thought to have turned the fortunes of the organisation
One of his key achievements has been driving ISBA’s membership up by
more than 70 per cent, bringing 41 new members on board. Today it
represents all of the top 25 UK television advertisers and around pounds
2.3 billion of media spend a year.
ISBA’s council was determined to appoint the best candidate and not
simply hand the job over to the next in line. The interview procedure
was described by one council member as one of the most rigorous he had
ever come across.
The initial line up of 40 candidates was whittled down to six, who had
to sit several interviews while their answers were scored by a panel of
judges, chaired by the Bacardi Martini executive director, Chris Searle
The remaining candidates were then subjected to scrutiny by an external
At this stage, Wootton is playing his cards very close to his chest.
Asked why he thinks the decision went Earnshaw’s way and what his
intentions are now, his response is diplomatic. ’I don’t know Malcolm
well enough to comment yet. I’ve only met him in groups of 20 people, so
we need to get to know each other. One thing I can say is that you won’t
be seeing any toys flying out of prams. I can’t say why the decision
went his way because I haven’t been debriefed yet - when that happens
I’ll know in excruciating detail.’
Earnshaw, already an ISBA vice-chairman, a former chairman of its
executive committee and a former president of the World Federation of
Advertisers, is well known for his dedication to the industry. Observers
say it’s not just a job to him, it’s his vocation.
While he certainly has some very large shoes to fill, any man that has
survived at Mars for so long is unlikely to be daunted by the task
While Hooper was an agency man, renowned for being a smooth operator and
a politician, Earnshaw’s client experience and knowledge of governmental
issues are thought to have been what swung the decision his way.
’ISBA is no longer a carping ground for the likes of Procter & Gamble
and Unilever,’ Mike Moran, the marketing director at Toyota and a member
of the ISBA council, says. ’Malcolm’s greatest challenge will be not
changing the course of ISBA too much.’
Nick Philips, the director-general of the IPA, agrees. ’I think
Earnshaw’s approach will be one of natural continuity - more of a
logical extension of what has gone before and not a sudden lurch to one
side,’ he says.
’He does have very big shoes to fill, but he can fill them. He is about
as experienced a man as you could get and he’ll hit the ground
Philips is keen that the close relationship the IPA and ISBA have
enjoyed under Hooper will continue. Recently, the two organisations
joined forces on what they claim to be the world’s first report on
payment by results.
They also worked together to develop a model contract for advertising
Hooper, never one to hide his light under a bushell, says Earnshaw will
have a lot to live up to. ’It would be fair to say that I have
transformed ISBA over the past six years. I have changed the staff, made
the structure more focused and developed better relationships with
agencies and the media. He’s not going to have to do lots of fixing,’ he
’Earnshaw will bring some corporate discipline to the job. He’ll be less
entrepreneurial, less of a maverick than I am and ISBA may well become
less flamboyant but it’s the right decision at this time.’
Hooper believes that one of Earnshaw’s more difficult tasks will be
maintaining the growth rate of ISBA’s list of members. Hooper’s approach
as director-general has been to get out there and sell people on why it
is a good idea to join. A priority for Earnshaw will be making it more
relevant to medium-sized advertisers.
Under Hooper, membership has polarised at the top end, but one of the
biggest factors affecting membership figures is the increasing
consolidation of companies. Each time a Royal Bank of Scotland merges
with a NatWest or when a company such as Unilever buys a rival such as
Bestfoods, ISBA loses a member. Every such case can mean a loss of
pounds 12,000 a year in subscription fees.
The changing structure of the broadcasting industry, convergence and the
debate over advertising to children are other areas that Hooper thinks
need to be tackled head on. Others on the ISBA council say that the
organisation’s profile needs to be raised further and some even suggest
the consideration of a new name.
If nothing else phases him, Earnshaw may be frustrated at the huge
amount of committee and administrative work coming his way. Part of the
key to Earnshaw’s success, according to Hooper, will be a close working
relationship with Wootton - ten years Earnshaw’s junior and, according
to one council member, ’terrier-like in the way he attacks issues’.
’Wootton will need to button down, accept that he came very close but
didn’t get the job,’ Hooper says. ’He’s a very able candidate and they
will be a dream team. Earnshaw needs Wootton as much as Wootton needs