Can ISBA’s media director shake off his 80s image? Claire Beale
Personalised Lotus Elan number plate: ‘HI BOBO’; interests: mycology
(that’s mushroom picking to the uninitiated) and guitar plucking.
Poor Bob Wootton, the new director of media services at the Incorporated
Society of British Advertisers. He’s asking for it really. An
interviewer’s dream, ripe for piss-ripping. I mean, do you really need
to know any more about the man now? Doesn’t that number plate say it
all? And as for the wild mushroom picking (‘It has given me an interest
in the countryside’), I’m sorry, but he’s not joking.
The smooth, smug-looking 40-year-old is - as one pal puts it -
‘guaranteed to get up people’s noses’. He’s certainly got the sort of
face you’d like to punch in moments of stress, and wouldn’t you just
love to mess up that hair, ruffle those togs a bit? This is the type of
guy who makes quotation marks in the air around his words.
Many say he can be very opinionated and arrogant; image and profile are
all important. He loved and lived the ad life of the 80s. He would greet
you with a shake of one hand, while the other was checking out the label
in your jacket. He drives a Lotus and fancies himself as a bit of a
musician (he plays in an acoustic band with his current business
partner, Steve De Saulles - catch them at the Garage or the Half Moon in
Putney). So far, so normal.
But Wootton lets himself down. He doesn’t enjoy a beer with the lads. He
doesn’t play golf. In fact, he doesn’t like sport. He’d rather be in the
kitchen rustling up some little French number, although he claims he’s
‘not a raincoat about cooking’ (clearly anorak is not part of the
Wootton lexicon). Or mushroom picking. And he calls himself a media man.
Oh, it would be so easy to twist the knife. But that’s the problem with
Mr Wootton. He’s such an easy target. And he knows it. By the time we
get to the subject of his number plate (a legend among those ready and
willing to damn ‘Bobo’), he’s shaking his head, almost sadly. ‘I like my
little car very much. Bobo was my nick-name at school, it’s a silly
private joke.’ He’s not apologising exactly, but he knows how it all
Wootton, a victim of his own idiosyncrasies, doesn’t really allow
himself a fair hearing. Moreover, his arrogance has won him a few
enemies, as has his outspokenness. Combine this with the image ISBA has
woven for itself in recent months over issues such as extra TV minutage
and the concentration of media sales, and it’s no wonder some industry
top dogs have greeted his appointment with dismay, or worse.
So why has Wootton been chosen as ISBA’s resident expert on media? After
all, he’s hardly had the most glittering of media careers (I know he
doesn’t like the ‘r’ word, so brace yourself, Bob), and has been made
redundant from his last two media director posts (at HDM Horner Collis
and Kirvan in 1992 and Griffin Bacal in 1995).
But as Nick Kelvin, the planning director of CIA Medianetwork and a
friend of Bobo’s, puts it: ‘Bob’s got an awful lot of integrity. Because
he’s very glinty-toothed, he will be great at articulating ISBA’s case,
and it now has a real media practitioner on its side. I’ve got an
immense amount of time and affection for him.’
And media owners shouldn’t automatically be concerned about Wootton’s
arrival. Sure, he intends to raise ISBA’s profile on the media issues
affecting its membership. ‘But one benefit I bring is the ability to
play devil’s advocate, and that will add another perspective to ISBA’s
media stance,’ he explains.
‘I’d hope media owners are slightly worried about my appointment, but I
wouldn’t flatter myself enough to think they’re very worried. On some
issues, I think they might even be glad to have me there, because we’ll
be fighting on the same side.’
And for those who remember - possibly with distaste - the Wootton of
old, he says that the problems of recent years have left their mark, and
it’s not necessarily bad. ‘A punch in the guts is sometimes good for
you,’ he admits.
‘I’m probably a nicer guy to be around now.’
Oh, I was so ready to write a vicious piece about Mr Wootton. The
guitar, the mushrooms, the Lotus. You could really go to town on this
guy. Then I met him, and actually quite warmed to him. That punch in the
guts probably did do some good. He still looks smug enough to be asking
for it again, though.
The Wootton file
1974 Lintas, assistant TV buyer, rising to deputy head of TV buying
1981 WCRS, TV buying manager, rising to associate media director
1985 HDM Horner Collis and Kirvan, media director
1992 Media consultant
1993 Griffin Bacal, media director
1995 De Saulles Associates, partner
1996 ISBA, director of media services