Earnshaw 'leaves ISBA in good shape'

Leading industry figures acknowledge the drive and dedication Malcolm Earnshaw demonstrated during his time at ISBA.

Malcolm Earnshaw, who is to retire as ISBA's director-general, will be remembered as having the talent for rooting out the devil in the detail and pushing Europe high up the trade body's agenda, rather than for courting popularity.

This has much to do with his cerebral style and the way he honed his skills at Mars, where he spent almost all of his working life, latterly as the European marketing director for Mars Petcare.

This experience sharpened his ability to absorb detail, but it also gave him an insight into the importance of Europe, something which ISBA had previously lacked. His encyclopaedic knowledge of what one associate refers to as the "alphabet soup" of the European Union and UK advertising legislation is perceived as being unique.

But it also bred what some saw as an inflexible right-wing philosophy and some difficulty early in his tenure at ISBA over grasping the importance of compromise and the need to carry others with him.

"He wasn't everybody's cup of tea," one trade body adviser says. "He found it hard to translate his Mars experience. He felt it was his mission to persuade everybody about the advantages of free enterprise, and woe betide anybody who couldn't see that."

Others, both in ISBA and beyond, deliver a more generous view. "I've always been one of his fans," Mike Moran, the former Toyota UK marketing chief and one-time ISBA council member, says. "He set an agenda which took the battle to the big guns."

Nick Phillips, the IPA director-general when Earnshaw arrived at ISBA, recalls: "Thanks to his experience at Mars, everything he did was thoroughly thought through."

Hamish Pringle, Phillips' successor at the IPA, believes Earnshaw's greatest achievement is to be found in the extension of self-regulation to broadcast advertising.

"He persuaded the client community that it was a worthwhile thing, and that they should pay the ASBOF levy to fund it," he says.

This victory will have been sweeter for Earnshaw, because, like every ISBA director-general since the body was founded 106 years ago, he has had to justify ISBA's existence to its 400-plus members.

"The problem that all ISBA director-generals have is that, while the IPA is the natural home of agencies, ISBA members have no such allegiances," Philip Circus, the IPA's former legal affairs director explains. "Food and drink advertisers have their own federation. If ISBA sometimes appears to be noisy or difficult, it's because it constantly has need to justify its subscriptions."

But there is a consensus that Earnshaw continued the process of rapprochement between ISBA and the IPA.

In the 80s, when ISBA was under the leadership of an abrasive Ken Miles, wags remarked that the only time the two bodies put their arms around each other was to feel for the best spot in which to plunge a knife.

Under John Hooper, a mercurial maverick with agency and client experience, a thaw took place. Earnshaw has continued this. He has been a key driver in the establishment of industry-wide guidelines on agency remuneration and of judging creative ideas.

"Malcolm and I work well together, but we haven't become all cosy and cuddled-up," Pringle says. "We're still on opposite sides of the table when it comes to remuneration. We probably always will be. But that's healthy."

EARNSHAW'S ASSOCIATION WITH ISBA

July 2000: Appointed as successor to John Hooper as the ISBA director-general, following a long career at Mars. He gets the nod ahead of Bob Wootton, ISBA's director of media and advertising affairs.

March 2002: Joins taskforce set up to revise the Committee of Advertising Practice code.

October 2002: Accuses the British Government of "fudging" the issue of how much control Ofcom should have over the BBC.

September 2004: Calls on the Government to stop blaming the advertising industry for the obesity crisis and to start investing in public campaigns to improve healthy living.

July 2006: Backs proposals by the food, soft-drinks and ad industries to avoid a threatened Ofcom ban on TV junk-food ads before the 9pm watershed.

July 2006: Announces he is to step down as ISBA chief at the age of 60. A team of ISBA council members is set up to work with headhunters to find a successor.

October 2006: The ex-Coca-Cola UK marketing director, Mike Hughes, is chosen.

WHAT DO YOU THINK EARNSHAW ACHIEVED AT ISBA?

"The fact that we have the best advertising self-regulation system in the world has a lot to do with Malcolm. When push came to shove, it was he who delivered the advertisers." - Hamish Pringle director-general, IPA

"Malcolm leaves ISBA in good shape. He has worked collaboratively with the IPA and the Advertising Association and got stuck into Europe." - Mike Moran managing partner, The Orchard Consultancy

"Malcolm has always been very professional and focused on the key issues. He gained enormous experience at Mars, and it is this that has kept driving him." - Nick Phillips former director-general, IPA

"All trade bodies have a duty to identify problems before they happen, and that means getting involved in Europe. Malcolm understands that." - Andrew Brown director-general, Advertising Association

"Malcolm has fought hard on behalf of the freedom to advertise. That's hard when you're representing so many different interests. But he works quietly to build consensus." - David Kershaw founding partner, M&C Saatchi

"Malcolm's problem was convincing the membership, who have more loyalty to their own trade associations, that ISBA has something valuable to contribute." - Philip Circus advertising and marketing law consultant.