Michele Martin discovers how the KLP chief juggles his demanding post with the chairmanship of SPCA.

Michele Martin discovers how the KLP chief juggles his demanding

post with the chairmanship of SPCA.

Iain Ferguson:

Age: 39

Appearance: Tall, slim and fitter than I really am.

Lives: Parsons Green, London

Children: Two

Income band: Enough to support a scary overdraft.

Occupation: Chief executive of the KLP Group and incoming chairman of

the Sales Promotion Consultants Association (SPCA).

Before we start, let’s get one burning issue out of the way. Shelf

wobblers. What’s the best one you’ve ever produced?

We’ve done some of the finest wobblers known to man, but I can’t

remember half of them.

Does it bother you that people often see the industry in this light?

Actually, no, because there aren’t many people like that around any


Just over half of total worldwide marketing spend goes outside

conventional advertising so anyone who says things like that is either

stupid or naive.

That’s put me in my place. Moving along, tell me about the tortuous

career path that led you to two plum jobs at such a young age

I began my career in 1977 at Grand Metropolitan Brewing in sales, joined

BAT a decade later as marketing manager in West Africa and finally moved

to KLP in 1988. I’ve been group chief executive for three years and took

on my SPCA role in January.

Can you manage both at once? After all, KLP has almost doubled in size

to become the UK’s second largest such company since you became chief,

with a pounds 27 million turnover

There’s an old saying that goes: ’If you want something done, ask a busy

man.’ If I didn’t think I could do it, I wouldn’t have volunteered. And

don’t forget, there are 12 people on the SPCA board.

But why not just sit back and enjoy your KLP bonuses instead of taking

on extra responsibilities?

Perhaps if those bonuses had been even 10 per cent of those of friends

in the City, I’d have thought about retiring. But they’re not, so ...

The serious answer is that I think it’s vital for top consultancies to

have a voice. We’re going to be the most important part of the

communications mix in the next few years and I’d like to define where we


What issues burn a hole in your agenda?

Several things. There will be a lot of changes in EC legislation during

my two years as chairman and we need to ensure no unfairly

anti-competitive laws get through. The UK has the most mature

promotional marketing industry in Europe and we want to encourage our

model as a standard. That way, we are more likely to be allowed to

compete in other countries.

Anything else?

We also need to get top graduates into the business and make sure that

the best clients have access to the best agencies. We already run

Portfolio Service, our own AAR, and we’ll be improving that.

All good, solid stuff, but what really gets your juices flowing?

My hobby horse is getting to the bottom of remuneration by results. A

good agency should be prepared to share some of the business risks with

a client and the first step is finding a good measurement standard.

If you weren’t doing all this, how would you earn a crust?

I’d like to run something small and profitable on a tropical island,

preferably in the Indian Ocean, because I haven’t been there.

And do you have any hobbies?

I shoot a bit and love travelling. And, of course, there’s the SPCA.

Don’t worry - only kidding.