CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: A subtle marketing strategy is needed to help ailing Rover

What price for Kevin Morley returning to run an Alchemy-owned Rover?

What price for Kevin Morley returning to run an Alchemy-owned


Probably rather higher than the trade-in value of a Rover 75 now that

BMW has cut loose its stricken subsidiary rather than be dragged down

with it.

It’s a prospect that will both fascinate and repel the ad industry. As

the former Rover marketing director who eight years ago succeeded in

hijacking the company’s entire marketing budget and setting up his own

agency to run it, Morley has always been a man who provoked fear and

loathing as well as much covert envy.

When the strapping six-footer was attacked by the boyfriend of a

disgruntled former employee in the middle of an agency pitch, it’s

highly doubtful anybody laughed about it to Morley’s face, even if they

privately applauded the intruder’s raw courage at taking on such an

intimidating adversary.

If the industry never loved Morley, the feeling was entirely mutual. He

abhorred what he thought was advertising’s dilettantism and dismissed

agency types as ’expensive lunch bandits’.

His relentless ambition ensured his time as client-turned-adman would

always be a relatively short period, drawing to a close when he sold

Kevin Morley Marketing to Lintas Worldwide and ending when his plans to

transform the Birkdale group proved abortive.

Now, his membership of Alchemy’s advisory board raises the tantalising

prospect of him running the company which once denied him a job at its

pinnacle and which he is known to have been interested in for some


The official line is that Morley will not be actively involved in direct

control of a slimmed-down Rover. But many doubt his ego will settle for

anything less.

’He can deny it as much as he likes, but the fact is he’s the only

person at Alchemy who has not only worked in advertising but knows about

cars,’ a former Rover agency senior executive tells me. ’The salesforce

loved him. It would be like the return of the prodigal son.’

Nobody will be killing the fatted calf in celebration this time,


Trying to shift new Rovers looks as futile as trying to sell snow to


Even before last week’s events, M&C Saatchi’s work was already getting

stick for failing to give the Rover brand either personality or


Rover’s real tragedy is that it has good models but zero credibility.

Alchemy’s plan is to phase out the Rover name gradually, replacing it

with a new breed of MG-badged cars which may not be a comfortable fit

with the name - as the MG Metro proved.

But new cars are up to five years in development and subtle marketing

skills will be required in the meantime. As an entrepreneur and a money

maker, Morley has true talent. But nobody ever called him subtle.