Nick Emery has one leg cocked over the arm of his chair. It’s a
sign, I think, that he’s a little nervous. But when I suggest he may be
feeling less than comfortable with this whole interview thing, his sneer
makes me feel like a few points have just been knocked off my IQ.
Silly me. Nick Emery nervous? No way. ’It’s the natural relaxation of
the new breed of management,’ Emery declares with the sort of
self-satisfied grin that makes me want to punch him.
As an example of media’s new breed, though, Emery cuts an encouraging
figure. The man promoted to strategic development partner, MindShare
Worldwide (Campaign, last week), represents a more creative side of
True, some might add, the more egotistical and opinionated side of
media, for Emery seems to have earned himself a reputation for arrogance
over the years, ’Mr Ego’ is how one colleague fondly describes him. But
Emery takes pride in being different and it’s not difficult to see how
more conventional mortals might treat this with suspicion. Besides
which, he asks me not to be nasty about him in print, because he wants
to show this cutting to his mum.
His manner doesn’t help endear him to the slower-witted. He’s dismissive
of less imaginative folk, bored by more mediocre intellects not prepared
to take risks. On the other hand, he has a capacity to get genuinely
excited about media and advertising which is refreshing in such a jaded
He’s touchingly proud, for example, to be on the government select
committee for Education.
But a conversation with the 32-year-old Emery is not something to be
engaged in lightly. In the months since I first met him, I’ve become
accustomed to locking wits whenever we speak. He questions everything
you say, making you think hard to justify even the smallest of
small-talk quips; I retire bruised and confused.
Then there’s his great capacity for literary quotation, which he
dribbles into conversations the way the rest of us blather ums and ahs.
His book collection contains most of my favourites, but it’s not a good
idea to discuss them with Mr Emery - he can remember all the characters,
has passages off pat and knows the author’s history. I just remember I
And he’s got an answer for everything, which he offers before you’ve
finished the question. His answers to my questions on MindShare elicit a
smooth professionalism. Media, he says, has become too divorced from the
heart of the marketing process, ’banging on about efficiency and
discount, rather than effectiveness and accountability. We want to bring
media back to marketing.’
So it’s no surprise that he’s been heavily involved with FastTrack (a
small intra-departmental group at Ogilvy & Mather which develops
strategies on creative work), and the WoW Factory (designed to help
clients use media in new and different ways). And it’s really no
surprise that, as it tries to position itself as the thinking client’s
media operation, MindShare’s chosen such a garish thinker as a
This is not to imply that Emery is an intellectual colossus. He is quite
capable of talking bollocks, with a media planner’s ability to froth
nebulous statements that vaporise under scrutiny. Occasionally his
’cleverness’ turns out to be be just wanky pretension.
I must just quote you from his CV - his words (and bad grammar) not
’After graduating with a First from the University of Sussex, Nick spent
the perfunctory ’year’ out playing drums for the Jesus and Mary Chain
and the 14 Iced Bears; in and around Europe, as well as working in the
odd bar.’ Pretentious? Probably - but true.
And he is bloody sharp. Dominic Proctor, the chief operating officer of
MindShare, says Emery is ’incredibly imaginative’ in the way he thinks
about media and is unrestricted by convention.
I suspect this means that Mr Emery has made himself a few enemies along
the way. He’s certainly not afraid to challenge authority, ideas,
traditions. He may be irritating, but in a world of nodding dogs, it’s
edifying to be made to think about what you think. In professional
terms, Emery says that if someone’s not prepared to challenge
themselves, how likely are they to challenge a media plan? ’What I can’t
stand are people who offer off-the-shelf media solutions,’ he
If I were a client, I’d love it (as long as my cost-per-thousand was
good). And as a media man, in the broadest sense of the term, this is
surely his strength - his refusal to tread the well-worn path. This
arrogance thing, this smart-alec stuff, is probably what he has to thank
for his promotion, because it drives him to be different. And so our
unconventional man inches up the conventional greasy pole.
THE EMERY FILE
Country Homes and Interiors, sales executive 1989 KHBB, account director
O&M Media, account director
The Network Europe, deputy managing director
MindShare Worldwide, strategic develpment partner