Media agency pioneer Paul Green dies

Paul Green, the man credited with launching the UK's first media independent, MBS, has died.

Paul Green: media pioneer
Paul Green: media pioneer

Green launched MBS in 1969, having previously worked at Garland Compton, and continued running the agency for 18 years. He is credited with introducing TV advertising to brands beyond FMCG that had previously dominated it. He was also a pioneer of TV sponsorship.

In 2017, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising named him as one of its "game changers" from the last 100 years in a list of nearly 50 people who stood out as having had a major influence on the advertising industry.

Below is a 2003 Campaign interview with the then-retired Green:

The man credited with opening the first media independent, MBS, in 1969 does the odd bit of consulting for obscure digital TV start-ups such as University Choice TV.

He has also ejected the occasional tricky customer from Odette's, his wife's Primrose Hill restaurant, and done the dishes when the washer-up was ill. But otherwise, Green has been easing himself further into retirement for the past five or so years.

"I play tennis every morning with the old editor of The Good Food Guide, although I'm still a crap player," Green says, straining to think how he whiles away the days. "We also spend four months a year sailing in St Lucia because my daughter lives there."

But this doesn't sound like the Vinnie Jones of media, a man who John Ayling, a colleague in the late 60s, recalls as "tough, hard drinking and able to handle aggro".

"I think you have to be a hard man to do the job but I never crushed a media owner," Green says, not explaining if "crushing" was metaphorical or literal.

He prefers to paint a more firm but fair picture of himself in those days - commenting on his negotiation tactics, he says: "It was a two-way street and in return for a good sales deal I'd always give them something back."

This something was new TV advertisers to a market which, in the early 70s, was dominated by soap powder manufacturers. Green introduced the record companies KTel and Ronco, and Norwich Union, the first financial advertiser to sample the medium.

He also pioneered the TV sponsorship deal by teaming Beamish Stout with Inspector Morse, Croft's Original with Rumpole of the Bailey and Legal & General with ITV's weather reports, but only after a protracted scrap with the TV stations. "Sales directors were worried sponsorship would take money out of TV spot budgets," Green recalls. "But in fact it generated new funds."

Launching an independent media shop was also a controversial move and Fleet Street was especially worried that MBS might be a threat to their ratecards.

After 18 years running MBS, which in its heyday had seven offices across Europe, Green launched a company called Media Dimensions but says he simply burnt out. After a few years trying to extricate himself from the business he finally ditched media for good to hang out with Simone - his one-time buying assistant.

"A creative bloke only needs to invent one good strapline such as 'Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach' once a year and then he can relax, but media is a hard business - it is incredibly work intensive," Green says. "My best piece of advice to anyone out there is to plan your career so that you can get out by the time you're 50."

Although he spent years fighting to get media respected in the eyes of clients, including launching the Association of Media Independents in 1981, once the industry was pirate-less, Green also found it a bit "staid".

He misses the "endless golf days" and cronies such as Ron Miller and Tony Vickers, whom he describes as "all legends in their own lunchtimes", but the man who included a giant photo of himself on his buying presentation flipchart couldn't hack the serious media scene of 2003.

"I drove a coach and horses through the establishment," he states. "Now the media industry is full of huge conglomerates run by accountants where you've got to ask the bloke with the chequebook permission to go out to lunch."

 

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