The AAR’s new go-between is no stranger to pitching politics, John Owen
Martin Jones and J. Walter Thompson were made for each other.
Professional, gentlemanly, what you might call ‘old school’, Jones
simply belonged in this grandest of agencies.
In all, he has been there for 12 years, nine of those in new business
and the last three as new-business director.
But last week, just as the agency was preparing to celebrate its 70th
birthday, the favoured son flew the nest. As Jones himself puts it:
‘Having to resign to Dominic [Proctor, JWT’s chief executive] felt like
having to tell your mum you’re leaving home.’
Out in the big wide world from the beginning of next year, Jones will be
the managing director of the Advertising Agency Register, the
independent client/agency matchmaker.
As such, he will be a man everyone will need to get to know. Within
hours of last week’s Campaign hitting the streets, Jones had filled his
diary with lunch dates.
Those who don’t know him - and there are many, for Jones’s role at JWT
was largely internally focused - will be keen to figure out if he has
what it takes to step into the shoes of the ever popular Lyndy Payne.
Well, one of her shoes, anyway. Payne, the AAR’s founder, will become
chairman and says she and Jones will ‘develop the business together’.
Bigger feet - much bigger feet - aside, everyone who does know the six-
foot-four, size-11 Jones is convinced that he is the perfect fit.
Justin Cernis, the business development partner at Mellors Reay and
Partners, comments: ‘If someone could continue the spirit in which the
AAR is run, Martin is the man.’
But Jones’s vision is not merely one of continuity. As someone who has
constantly had to deal with the AAR, he has a sound knowledge of its
flaws and is keen to iron them out. Perhaps the biggest problem for
agencies stems from the need for absolute client confidentiality.
‘Sometimes the extent of the information you get is that ‘it is an
advertiser’,’ Jones says. ‘I’m sure there are ways around it to make the
agencies feel better informed about what’s required of them.’
As well as improving the quality of the briefs, he also intends to
follow up with better debriefs, making the AAR a much more ‘valuable
resource’ for agencies than many believe it to be now.
More controversial may be his plans to expand the AAR into new
territories. For the moment, Jones is coy about what these are, but it
is fair to assume that expanding beyond traditional advertising agencies
and offering some kind of consultancy service are two items on the
However, nothing will be finalised until after he gets feedback from a
series of planned discussions with agencies and clients. ‘I need to
understand what we can do without damaging the AAR brand,’ he stresses.
‘The cornerstones are confidentiality and impartiality.’
So, anyone hoping to influence him into favouritism through all that
lunching had better think again. Those who do want to impress, however,
should note that his favourite restaurant is Coast, although he is also
hugely partial to Chinese food, Peking duck in particular. His tastes in
wine - Australian or New Zealand reds - are simple, reflecting his down-
to-earth nature, he claims.
While that may be so, he is also passionate - about football, music,
but, most of all, about his job.
William Eccleshare, now the chief executive of Ammirati Puris Lintas,
was the man who, as managing director of JWT, plucked Jones from the
agency’s information unit and encouraged his move into new business.
Eccleshare’s astuteness was never better illustrated than when JWT
pitched - successfully - for the pounds 15 million Esso account in 1991.
‘We’d been working really hard one evening,’ Eccleshare recalls. ‘At
about 3am, we went home. When I got in the next morning, Martin was
still there. He’d die for a pitch.’ In fact, Jones says, he spent three
days and nights working on the Esso pitch, not just one.
Adam Leigh, a friend of Jones and his former opposite number at the
fellow WPP agency, Ogilvy and Mather, explains: ‘Martin’s very
competitive. I suspect he’ll want to make every pitch come through the
But Payne’s gain is JWT’s loss and Proctor will be hard pushed to find a
replacement. ‘Martin is a fantastic facilitator,’ he says. ‘But for
someone who’s never worked with clients at the coal-face, he also has a
great knowledge of clients’ needs.’
With Proctor sad to see him go and Jones admitting to being a new-
business junkie, you have to ask: why is he leaving at all?
‘I’m not unhappy now,’ Jones explains. ‘The issue was what I was going
to be doing in two years’ time.’
With no desire for - or genuine prospect of - a general management role
at the agency, it was only a matter of time before an international
portfolio was pushed his way. For someone so in love with the London
agency scene, such a prospect was not enticing.
But still he can’t resist telling you how much he adores his job at JWT.
As he describes his feelings walking down Wembley Way to the England
match last week, he says: ‘I just love big events. It’s like the British
Airways pitch. To me, that was like playing in the World Cup Final.
That’s what I love about this place: the stature of what we get involved
It’s to be hoped he doesn’t miss it all just a little too much.