Rupert Miles, the new managing director of Carlton Interactive
Media, sometimes talks like a man who has had therapy to help deal with
a premature mid-life crisis.
One could argue that he’s had the professional equivalent, having spent
six weeks last year at the Wharton business school - the Harvard rival -
where the course included a session with a psychiatrist who asked him to
reveal his Jungian shadow. One of the messages Miles came out clutching
was that ’reward is in the journey’.
’I see a lot of people choosing a lot of goals and by the time they get
there they find it’s not quite what they thought it would be. I haven’t
defined the end goal but I enjoy the journey,’ he says. ’In your forties
(he’s still reasonably fresh-faced, he’s only two years into this age
group) you go through a deep process of re-assessment, and I have
learned to get a clearer sense of my own priorities and to be more
sensitive about other people.’
Just when you think he’s about to turn into Sting and start talking
about tantric sex, he adds that this reassessment has helped him
establish a healthier balance between a demanding professional life and
a personal life, hinting that the 80-hour weeks have nearly pushed that
balance out of kilter.
Whatever magic they taught him at Wharton, he’s going to need it. Not
only does he have a massive task ahead of him when he joins Carlton
Interactive Media, but he still has a stack of work to do before he
leaves beeb.com, which he set up three years ago. Beeb.com is the
lovechild of the BBC and ICL, although ICL funded the whole venture.
ICL’s contract is up for review at the end of the year, so before
dashing off to the world of pure commercialism he has to renegotiate the
IT giant’s terms of engagement.
While admitting there is never a good time to leave a job because there
are so many critical things going on, Miles says he has become ’a bit of
an adrenaline junkie’ and found Carlton’s offer difficult to resist.
The job will give him more power. He gets a seat on the Carlton Media
Board, and he will take responsibility for Carlton Online, overseeing a
host of launches under its brand. He says he is particularly looking
forward to being in charge of DHE, Carlton’s internet fulfilment
’This element is critical,’ he enthuses. ’In the future of this medium
one of the many revenue streams will be selling online.’
One of his aims - apart from getting the business to make a profit - is
to drive closer integration of all the interactive elements of Carlton,
including the digital channels, the online services and fulfilment. As
the open plan, touchy-feely atmosphere of beeb.com testifies, he’s a big
fan of a less conventionally structured working culture - a climate
which ’doesn’t frown on idiosyncratic ideas’.
’The best ideas don’t come from hierarchical decision-making,’ he
’The inherent problem with most media is that people in the target
audience - those who possibly should be making the creative decisions -
are typically at the bottom of the pyramid. We have to encourage a
culture that gets people to speak out.’
Miles developed a reputation for being a bit brainy ten years ago as
part of the launch team for the short-lived Sunday Correspondent, where
he also learned what it was like to launch from an empty-desk phase.
One agency head observes: ’Since then he’s epitomised the stereotype of
the ad guy: smart-looking and smart-talking, but his smoothness makes me
think that what he’s best at is acting smart.’
One also gets the impression he is relishing leaving an organisation
obsessed by funding. It must get pretty boring defending your
professional actions against accusations of over-commercialism. Miles
had his fair share of that last month when the corporation announced the
launch of freebeeb, a free internet service provider.
Others suggest that Carlton’s lure must surely have included some longer
term financial incentives - the kind of thing commercially minded folk
just won’t get a sniff of at the BBC. Unless, of course, the corporation
does opt for a partial sell-off of BBC Worldwide, as recommended by the
Davies Committee. Until then, isn’t the BBC going to lose its brightest
new-media sparks to rivals?
Miles’ response is diplomatic: ’In the commercial world it is possible
for people to gain a share of the value they create for the companies
they work for. As a manager, that’s a very useful tool. It must be of
some concern to the BBC.’
THE MILES FILE
Cambridge Evening News, ad sales director
The Guardian, ad sales executive becoming ad manager
Sunday Correspondent, ad director
IPC Weeklies, group ad director
Radio Times, publishing director
BBC Online, director
Carlton Interactive Media, managing director