Adam Rhodes lacks fame but has a clarity of vision, as Claire Beale
His appointment was the first damp squib of the year - rivals cackled
with glee at the news. In a business where the unknown is unknown,
nobody knows Adam Rhodes (Campaign, last week). The new chief operating
officer of the ITV sales house, TSMS, is an outsider and an
Despite his lengthy service at the university of marketing, otherwise
known as Procter and Gamble, and his experience as a management
consultant - which is all very worthy, of course - Rhodes is not a
member of that crack elite: the TV salesmen.
But relax. While the fiercely ginger 35-year-old may be a complete
unknown in this most incestuous of industries, Rhodes is a golfer. He
has a 16 handicap. He also plays a musical instrument. OK, so it’s the
piano and he’s only at grade six, along with a handful of
pre-pubescents, but it has sales conference potential.
Some would say that these are Rhodes’s most obvious credentials for his
new position at TSMS. But there is always the slim possibility that his
unfamiliarity is his unique selling proposition. The murky pool of TV
sales is not exactly swimming with fresh talent, and innovators are more
likely to be found on the edges of the market than within the ITV
So, his appointment could be seen as a breath of fresh air.
But, even so, it’s hardly the sort of high-profile appointment that the
bland TSMS so desperately needs, critics would argue. Where’s the
Well, Rhodes might not be a showman, but he is most definitely a
salesman, according to his old playground chum, Nick Hurrell, who is
virtually the only person in the business to have heard of Rhodes before
Hurrell has known him since the days when Mrs Rhodes used to take them
both to school.
Hurrell, the joint managing director of M&C Saatchi now that he’s grown
up, remembers young Rhodes as a ’charming winner’. He says: ’Adam’s got
this real ability to be a tenacious competitor, but to be very nice
about it too.’ In fact, Hurrell - who now finds himself in the strange
position of having his old schoolmate as his client (M&C Saatchi handles
the ITV advertising account) - always thought Rhodes would be a
top-class marketer. ’Adam was very persuasive, a great salesman,’ he
It could be that Rhodes inherited what Hurrell identifies as ’an
entrepreneurial bent’ from his father, who ran a retail business.
Certainly, by the time Rhodes junior was putting puberty behind him, he
had settled on a degree in managerial and administrative studies at
Aston University (for Rhodes is Birmingham born and bred - yup, he’s a
Birmingham City fan). Then he went straight into P&G, not a bad company
to work for, says Rhodes, if you’re the father of triplet girls - think
of all those cut-price Pampers.
What P&G also gave him, Rhodes adds, was an objectivity and an
understanding of advertising from the client’s perspective. In the same
way that advertisers had to cope with a reversal of power in their
relationship with retailers (who now, of course, have most advertisers
by the balls), so ITV companies are having to manage a similar
about-turn in the relationship with their advertiser clients.
’It was a strategic decision for TSMS to bring in someone who looks at
the world with a different gaze,’ Rhodes explains. ’I don’t come
encumbered with baggage. I look more objectively and I’ve got a
different set of skills, and those qualities are important in taking
TSMS into the future.’
So what will he be doing at what is still the weakest of the three sales
houses? ’Getting my feet wet and my hands dirty,’ he says. ’I’m not an
ivory tower kind of manager - I’ll be getting out and about, learning
from the people already there and, hopefully, they’ll be learning from
me.’ More specifically, he identifies ’the need to establish a vision of
the future, to understand in real depth the nature of the TSMS product
we have today and how we can shape that for the future.’ It will be, he
insists, ’an evolution’.
As you can tell, Rhodes is well in possession of the salesman’s
rhetoric, although his delivery is more humble than that of some. But
will he really cut it in the television market when some are already
sniffing for his blood? ’He’ll be out within 18 months,’ one observer
But then, with clients’ fingers tightening round the ITV companies’
balls, it could be that Rhodes will help TSMS loosen the grip a little.
If not, it could get painful.
THE RHODES FILE
1984 Procter and Gamble, sales representative
1986 P&G, area manager, London
1988 P&G, sales and marketing manager
1993 P&G, sales and marketing division manager, beverages
1993 NHA International, managing director, training and
1997 TSMS, chief operating officer