HEADLINER: Reformed bruiser takes on a mission to revitalise Western - Mike Tunnicliffe’s zest will be put to good use in his new role

He’s back. And this time it’s serious. Bloody serious - UDV lost, reputation tarnished, future bleak. Mike Tunnicliffe is back with a vengeance, and he needs to be if he’s going to sort out Western International Media.

He’s back. And this time it’s serious. Bloody serious - UDV lost,

reputation tarnished, future bleak. Mike Tunnicliffe is back with a

vengeance, and he needs to be if he’s going to sort out Western

International Media.

The man who quit CIA Medianetwork last autumn walked into Western this

week as managing director; out of the fire and into the urn? Tunnicliffe

the masochist. The man likes a challenge.

It’s not that Western has been haemorrhaging business exactly, just that

it hasn’t moved forward one perception point since going solo last


New business has been as thin on the ground as hairs on Tunnicliffe’s

head; all hopes of salvaging status by winning the crucial UDV pitch

evaporated when Carat emerged triumphant; and the company has no clear

brand position, no profile and no real muscle.

Then along comes Tunnicliffe - no white knight but he knows a thing or

two about chargers. In many ways he’s the antithesis of what came before

at Western. Bigger, badder, balder than Western’s former chief, Mike

Smallwood, Tunnicliffe’s a doer who knows how to play the media game. He

is a streetfighter used to scrapping it out in the dog-eat-dog world of

media independence, not cosseted (or compromised) by the full-service

ethos. He knows how to be a bit of a bruiser - exactly what Western

needs if it’s to get itself a hard commercial edge.

Take TV trading, for example. Western, and its predecessor, the Lowe

Howard-Spink media department, staked its reputation on quality buying

in the face of the crack negotiation skills of its competitors - a

defensive positioning that always sounded a petulant note.

Ironically, CIA, under Tunnicliffe’s tenure got cremated trying to be

too clever with its TV trading, eventually over-trading to the extent it

had to hand pounds 1.8 million back to the ITV sales house, Laser.

Tunnicliffe came out of the fiasco unscathed but it meant he couldn’t

exactly claim his time there as a runaway success. ’For me personally,

there’s unfinished business,’ he admits. He feels he made a lot of

positive changes at CIA, but agrees that the whole TV trading issue blew

him off course. He says it’s not exactly that he has something to prove,

but ’I like to win and be seen to win’.

In the context of which, Western may not seem like such a duff call.

’I was looking for a challenge,’ says Tunnicliffe, ’an opportunity to

make my mark, stamp my own authority.’ Not that we can expect blood on

the carpet within a week. Tunnicliffe’s giving himself to the end of the

year to get under the skin of the place, coming out all guns blazing in


But he insists Western isn’t a bad business. ’Western’s just never

really marketed its strengths. It’s got excellent planning and strategic

skills, which are a key point of differentiation in a market heading

rapidly towards consolidation.’ And, unlike some of its more lumpen

competitors, Western’s bland anonymity means it can be more nimble.

’It’s more like turning round a rather fast speed boat than an oil

tanker,’ Tunnicliffe says. Of course, Lowes left it rather too late to

launch Western, a relative newcomer fighting in a market of well-

established media brands, but Tunnicliffe prefers to see the company’s

creative heritage as an advantage. ’There are people at Western who

understand the whole advertising process, who don’t just see media in

isolation, and that’s a skill base we can offer to other creative


Despite Western’s failure to attract new business, Tunnicliffe claims

its small but perfectly-formed client base (Tesco and Vauxhall are the

biggies) is a real asset. ’I won’t have to spend a lot of time

concentrating on lots and lots of small clients. This is a client list

to die for.’

And although, funnily enough, Tunnicliffe now believes the volume game

has been over-played, he does see opportunities for Western to bulk its

muscle through acquisitions and start-ups as well as new business.

Expansion into territories such as programme-making, sponsorship and

direct marketing are not being ruled out.

But while all his well-honed spiel about Western suggests he’s never

been away, Tunnicliffe does confess that his return to media after ten

months in the garden, on the yacht and on the school-run, have made

their mark. ’I’m more objective now,’ he admits, ’calmer. I suppose I’ve

got a more refreshing outlook on the business. I don’t rush out to buy

Campaign until Friday now.’

The Tunnicliffe file


Link House Publications, sales executive


Saatchi & Saatchi, media assistant


Leagas Delaney, media manager


Horner Collis & Kirvan, deputy media director


CIA, head of non-broadcasting


CIA, managing director


Western International Media, managing director


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