MEDIA: HEADLINER; Bobo leaves the past behind to take ISBA’s media forward

Can ISBA’s media director shake off his 80s image? Claire Beale investigates

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

must sound.

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