Media Headliner: Brydon is content to be an MPG elder statesman

As the new head of trading at MPG Media Contacts, Alan Brydon is still happy to pick the occasional fight.

Some of us on Campaign are not, it has to be said, entirely cut out to be investigative reporters. When Alan Brydon trotted out the line about "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas", we obviously took this as a challenge. He was referring to his 50th birthday bash last autumn when he and eight others, including media industry mates, hit town, hell-bent on some serious fun.

"You won't get any stories," he told us, laughing rather too comfortably, we suspected, when we interviewed him last week. Yeah, right, we thought. But guess what? We haven't been able to get any stories.

The code of omerta in Brydon's circle is impressively maintained. The only small lapse comes courtesy of Jon O'Donnell, the advertising director of the London Evening Standard, who is prepared to reveal merely that the incident with the buffet trolley (whatever that was) didn't actually involve him.

If we were being utterly subversive, we might speculate that the truth is even more awful than anyone, to date, has been able to contemplate. We might imply, in short, that everyone's using reverse psychology here to hide the fact that, actually, it was all rather sedate.

But that would be a terrible heresy - Brydon still manages to trade on a reputation, now a decade or two in the past, as the hellraiser's hellraiser. At the top of his game, some observers say, he made the self-styled wild child (and former colleague) Jonathan Durden look like a choirboy.

And it was a reputation that even managed to survive his rather glamorous marriage in 1997 to the "queen of rave", Rozalla Miller - and his subsequent protestations that he had left the more Animal House aspects of his bachelor days behind him.

These days, of course, Brydon (when the mood takes him) is motivated more than ever to play down - or at least modulate - this aspect of the classic Alan Brydon brand. Because he's only gone and landed a big new MPG role on the basis of his credentials as one of the "wise old heads" in the media market.

Previously the agency's head of press and outdoor, he's been promoted to the role of head of trading at MPG Media Contacts. Trading on a day-to-day basis will continue to be fronted by the heads of each discipline - Simon Blackburn in radio, Dave Katz in digital, plus a new appointment, soon to be announced, to replace the TV trading head, Jim McDonald, who moved on in January. Brydon will continue to oversee press and outdoor, though he will now have an assistant (again, soon to be confirmed).

John McLoughlin, MPG's chief operating officer, says that Brydon will have a rather unique role. He's not being appointed to steal the thunder of these trading heads - rather, to be a leader and a mentor and to co-ordinate their thinking. His top-level contacts across the industry will help him ease log jams if and when they occur too. More than anything, McLoughlin says, it takes the agency's drive towards greater onand offline integration on to the next stage.

But integration isn't the whole story - Brydon's appointment also underlines MPG's evolving selfimage (especially since winning Axa and Hyundai-Kia last year) as "one of the smaller big agencies, rather than one of the bigger small agencies".

What it definitely won't involve, however, is any move towards greater trading integration with its sister agency Arena BLM. This is not about the creation of a mini Group M. The Havas Group just doesn't want to leverage media deals in that sort of way. (Just as well, some observers say - because it's in no position to.)

But Brydon insists he's not beyond picking a fight when the occasion demands - and if it's in the interests of clients. "I can offer reassurance. There are times when it helps to have someone around who's prepared to be bullish and brave," he says.

And as former colleague Greg Grimmer, a partner at Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer, says, the bottom line is that Brydon has always commanded respect.

He adds: "Alan is the most colourful character in media. Ever. And you can call that old school if you like. But with people saying media's all done by procurement these days and with a groundswell of opinion that there aren't enough characters in the business, then we really do have to celebrate this sort of appointment."

After all, Brydon has held down some heavyweight jobs in his time, not least the four years he spent as the advertising sales director of the Evening Standard (2002-2006) before joining MPG in 2007. Before that, he'd been the managing director of CIA Medianetwork, having begun his career in the media department of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

There were those who wondered, when he originally joined MPG, whether the agency's press trading job was big enough for his ego - but one way or another, he's squaring that proposition. And actually, he reveals, he's never felt more at home. The role of grey-haired elder statesman becomes him, he maintains; and he has even come to cherish being referred to affectionately by some of the agency's tyros as "Uncle Al".

As he concludes: "I love the fundamental decency of the culture here. It stems from (chief executive) Marc Mendoza and feeds through senior management to the whole agency. I firmly believe that decency reaps business dividends in the long term."

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 50 (and the birthday trip to Vegas and LA remains a life highlight)
Lives: Clapham, South-West London
Family: Wonderful wife, no kids (they'd make too much noise)
Most treasured possession: Picture of Mum and Dad
Must-have gadget: iPod - you can never have too much music
Interests outside work: Playing golf, watching sport on TV, tropical
fish tank
Last book read: Creative Mischief by Dave Trott. (Best quote: "I don't
have to win; I just have to make sure you lose")
Favourite 90s pop single: Are You Ready To Fly by "queen of rave",
Rozalla
Motto: Do as you would be done by

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