Media Headliner: Brown to bring 'drive and elegance' to OMG role

Philippa Brown's appointment as Omnicom Media Group's UK chief wasn't obvious, but ruffles no feathers.

Philippa Brown grew up knowing what it is to be a success. Her dad is Eddie Stuart, the South African full-back from the Wolverhampton Wanderers football team of the 50s that swept all before them and won three League Championships.

Brown is understandably still proud of her old man, and shows Campaign some cuttings from the West Midlands press of the two of them together when she enlisted his help in launching a TV magazine for her current employer, IPC.

Omnicom Media Group, which has just ended its long search for a UK chief executive by appointing Brown, will hope that some of the Stuart magic has rubbed off on his daughter. At the very least some of the personality traits seem to be there - she's said to be ambitious and a strong character, but behind it all is a fairness and willingness to get on with people.

Brown's appointment, while not exactly a shock given her significant media experience, came a bit out of left field. Colin Gottlieb, the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group, for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, had been searching for months for the person to lead OMG, which sits above Omnicom's UK media assets including OMD, PHD and the trading arm OPera.

Many expected a senior agency figure to be appointed to the role and Gottlieb certainly saw a few. He explains: "Everybody I spoke to spoke about themselves, but not about our brands and the businesses. Philippa is youngish, but has fantastic experience, bagfuls of energy and from her time at Bartle Bogle Hegarty has experience of 'good media'. At IPC, she's been managing a complex P&L but her enthusiasm about our brands just really got me."

Gottlieb says Brown has the necessary "drive and elegance" to behave as "somebody to be the voice of Omnicom Media Group for the United Kingdom". She'll certainly need leadership qualities and people skills to take forward an umbrella organisation covering seven different brands and some 780 people. Good relationships with Morag Blazey, the chief executive of PHD, and Steve Williams, the group chief executive of OMD, will be vital.

But those who know Brown think she can pull this off. Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of Guardian Media Group, knows Brown well, dating back to her BBH days (and will become a client of Brown's via the PHD connection). She says: "What people tend to forget on the agency side is that she has had a broad and complex experience, covering everything including distribution and IT. Philippa is driven and ambitious and people like working with her."

Sly Bailey, the chief executive of Trinity Mirror and Brown's former boss at IPC, says: "She's a dynamite operator. Very creative, highly numerate with an enormous capacity for work and an instinctive grasp of media. People like her because she's driven and she's fun."

Brown's entree into the media world came just over 20 years ago in a Wolverhampton pub. Having spurned a budding career as an accountant, Brown was plotting a move to London. Her drinking partner happened to be the younger sister of a certain Andy Tilley, then a bright young planner at BMP. Tilley's sister suggested a call to big brother and he helped Brown secure an interview at DMB&B, where she landed a job. A strange quirk given that Brown's husband, Kevin, the head of engagement planning at BBH, was later to become a close colleague of Tilley's.

She progressed to the media department of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, under the stewardship of Richard Eyre and then Mark Cranmer, and stayed as it was relaunched as Motive. But Brown was headhunted in 1997 by IPC to become its first ad marketing director.

She rose through the ranks to become a board director in 2002 and then the managing director of its IPC tx, IPC + and IPC Direct businesses. Speaking from her spacious corner office on the sixth floor of IPC's spectacular new Blue Fin building (she's certainly not joining Omnicom for the view), Brown says she wasn't looking for a move from IPC, but couldn't ignore the headhunter's call.

"The media agency world is very exciting - just look at the pace of change and what is happening with digital. That really excited me and I was really excited by Omnicom and its brilliant brands - it is very pioneering and creative in its approach," she says.

But does she worry, especially as the head of such a large media group, that media has become duller, more commoditised, since her days at BBH? She responds: "Ten years ago, it was all about buying clout. I joined BBH when it was a creative media department, but then it became bigger and bought really well. Now, especially with agencies such as OMD and PHD, I think creativity is vital, it's so dull when it's all about buying clout."

That said, Brown knows much of the rationale for OMG lies in its £1.2 billion combined UK media spend. But what will be her management approach? "I'm very collaborative. I won't be sat in some ivory tower, but equally I will not be standing on people's toes. I will be getting out and meeting clients though," she explains.

Senior people around OMG UK businesses generally welcome Brown's appointment. When they say she wasn't "the obvious appointment", they mean it in a good way. As one OMD source reveals: "Philippa is tough - if she can handle the politics at IPC, she can handle them anywhere."

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 41
Lives: Fulham, London
Family: Husband Kevin, children Polly, six, and Joey, three
Most-treasured possession: My family and my father's football medals
Interests outside work: Our cottage in the New Forest, swimming, gym
Favourite ad: Sony Bravia "balls"
Favourite magazine: Grazia
Favourite TV programmes: Prison Break, 24, Desperate Housewives, Ugly
Betty
Last book I read: Can't remember. Don't have time to read books ... I
have two kids under six!
Motto: "Keep it simple"

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