MEDIA HEADLINER: Brien set to exploit his media skills for Starcom MediaVest - A change of country and a new position are not fazing Nick Brien

Compared with that other high-profile slide of ad man into media waters (Ben Langdon cuts a rather more intriguing figure as head of Universal McCann Europe), Nick Brien's new job is 100 per cent organic.

Compared with that other high-profile slide of ad man into media waters (Ben Langdon cuts a rather more intriguing figure as head of Universal McCann Europe), Nick Brien's new job is 100 per cent organic.

The chief executive of Leo Burnett, London is shipping out to the US and trading creative for media (he's also expecting his first child, just to get that blood pressure really motoring). But, in truth, the media part of this life-changing equation is perhaps the least likely to give him sleepless nights.

Brien has been elevated to a newly created role within the Starcom MediaVest Group, the B-Com3 global media network that Burnett shares with D'Arcy. But for Brien, it's more of a return to the womb than a radical gear change.

Media is in his veins, from Grey's media department to founding a 'B' in BBJ, to joining Burnett as media director; and he's been shrewd enough to keep his media credentials well polished, never losing his passion and enthusiasm for the field.

Such care for his career, driven by an undeniable ambition, is now paying off. His new job title - president of US corporate business development for Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) - might sound like so much cotton wool masquerading as a hunk of marble, but scrape back the corporate fluff and the real job underneath would have many seasoned media practitioners salivating.

Brien says there are three aspects to his task. The first is diversification.

He's got money to broaden the range of services embraced under the SMG umbrella, taking in areas of communication such as entertainment, programming, sports and event marketing. He's already been pursuing such a strategy at Burnett in London, but for SMG it will be about 'laying down a vision of how we continue to invest in media in its broadest sense'.

Second, he will be responsible for focussing on the new business and marketing of SMG and of its individual brands. The network is barely a year old in its current guise and still has a major job to do with its international profile and positioning.

Third, he will be turning a spotlight on the US MediaVest operation.

While Starcom has brushed rivals aside in its determination to establish a formidable US media offering, MediaVest US has floundered of late, lacking clear direction. Its identity needs sharpening if it is to do justice to the SMG proposition. 'I'm going to be working closely with the MediaVest management to ensure they are considered to be the leadership company that their size and status deserves,' Brien explains.

SMG has already proved itself far-sighted in the US media market and Brien's remit simply serves as the latest evidence. OK, he's been out of the day-to-day media game during its most dynamic period (no-one had heard of the internet when Brien still had media on his business card) but he has been a passionate exponent of new media and the changing communications scene.

However, will the US media landscape prove fertile ground for Brien's well-developed roots? 'I'm not going to the US per se,' he insists. 'You have to see it more in terms of the fact that I'm going to SMG's headquarters so that I can start to develop a global blueprint.'

The real issue, though, is whether Brien is being primed to take over the gap left when Bob Brennan, SMG's chief operating officer, was promoted to president of Leo Burnett Worldwide last autumn. There's surely no doubt that Brien covets the role, or at least something approximating its second-in-command/heir-apparent status. But Jack Klues, SMG's chief executive, has not hesitated to dismiss the suggestion and Brien, ever the careful politician, says he's 'impressed that Jack has not simply replaced Bob with me, but has really thought about my strengths'.

Does he want Brennan's old status? 'I can't answer that, it's too early for me, but I am ambitious and I'm ambitious for the companies I work for.' His next brief, though, is a complex one, a fudge, you might think, born out of lengthy negotiation, but Brien remains undaunted. 'With ambiguity comes a huge amount of opportunity,' he says.



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