Media Headliner: Creighton plays integrated game at Mindshare

The former goalkeeper had no shortage of suitors after i-level folded but his next step surprised many, Alasdair Reid writes.

There are not, as far as we are aware, many ex-Manchester City goalkeepers in the business - or indeed half-decent goalkeepers of any sort. So it's tempting, where Mark Creighton is concerned, to wander off on a fanciful journey in search of all sorts of colourful metaphors and analogies.

Because, of course, there is a whole rich mythology about goalkeepers. It tends to boil down to the bald statement that "goalkeepers are different". A breed apart. The implication being, in short, that they're all slightly nutty.

We soon decide, however, that this isn't going to be fruitful territory to explore - and not just because Creighton never quite made it into the upper reaches of the goalkeeping pantheon. He was on City's books between the ages of 11 to 17, in a talented youth team coached by Colin Bell; and he had England trials at Lilleshall before being "let go" and ending up (a sobering realisation, this, that he might not make the grade) warming the bench at Rochdale.

No. We're steering clear of the keeper theme principally because Creighton is clearly anything but nutty - he comes across at all times as the epitome of the sound corporate man. Which is just as well, really, given his latest career move.

Creighton was the managing director of i-level when it was plunged into shock administration back in May, a reflection of a terrible loss of nerve by its private equity owners rather than any overt management failings.

The notion that i-level's staffers would have little trouble finding new billets has proved largely correct (the agency was, after all, a digital media pioneer) and, at the time, there was an understanding that Creighton could basically walk into a senior role at just about any agency in town that took his fancy.

Few, though, would have predicted that he'd opt to join Mindshare. He started a couple of weeks ago in a newly created role of chief operating officer. "I was in a pretty unique situation," he admits. "I could look openly at the market, ask myself what I was passionate about and decide what my next step would be, whether at a (digital) specialist, a media agency or a creative agency."

The clever money was on him doing something niche and leading edge - and there were rumours that he'd turned down at least one offer of a senior role at another leading media agency. It turned out, though, that the thing he was passionate about was integration - a passion he reveals he acquired at his first agency, All Response Media, which he joined as a graduate trainee back in 1999.

He plumped for Mindshare, he says, because it has chosen to go down the right route. Some agencies believe if you fix digital, then everything will be fine, even if the rest of the agency offering suffers. Other agencies have determined that everyone should be a multi-media generalist across all onand offline domains.

The right way, Creighton believes, is to retain best-in-class specialists - but to provide them with the right structures so that they can all pull together in a productive way. Slotting into a management triumvirate alongside Mindshare's chief executive, Jed Glanvill, and managing director, Ita Murphy, Creighton's new role will be to take the agency further down that road.

David Pattison, his former boss at i-level, reckons he has chosen wisely - and it's certainly the right move for someone with evident ambition. He says: "Mark's a real can-do person - and clients adore him because of that. He never ducks anything. In the best way possible, he has an old head on young shoulders. He had the opportunity of a lot of responsibility early on, took that responsibility and did it brilliantly."

Surely, though, joining Mindshare is something of a culture shock after so many years (he joined i-level in 2003) at the digital cutting edge. Perhaps, Creighton concedes: "There's lots to get my head around. At i-level, I knew everyone in the agency. It's clearly a different scale here. Working relationships are clearly different when there's such a large personnel base - and there's the international dimension too. It's all part of the excitement. It's what I need to be able to grow."

And, indeed, according to some observers, there's one area in particular where he might be required to raise his game. If there was a worry at i-level, it was that he wanted to do it all himself. In his new role, he'll have to get a lot better at delegating.

Interestingly, though, this is something that Creighton clearly thinks deeply about. If you've been through the brutally competitive world of youth football at a big club, he argues, you tend to learn more than a little about the relationship of the individual to the body corporate.

And so, perhaps, the biggest innovation he'll bring to Mindshare won't be from the digital world but from a different sort of field altogether. "Teamwork is about understanding the different strengths that people have and the different roles that they are able to play. Not everyone looks the same or thinks the same," he says.

And he clearly believes there are elements of sporting life that can be applicable in business. He concludes: "I'm particularly interested in the way that, in sport, you have short periods of time to get messages across. In the half-time team talk, for instance. The secret is not to over-elaborate. It's about clarity."

Age: 33
Lives: St Margarets, London
Family: Married to Georgina, with one son, Rory
Most treasured possession: My grandfather's chair
Must-have gadget: Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker
Favourite media: The Times, Radio 5 live, Sky Mobile TV app
Best website:
Interests outside work: Cooking, golf, skiing