MEDIA: HEADLINER - Hooper to help steer the RAB through the digital landscape. John Hooper CBE is aiming to cement the radio body's profile, Anna Griffiths says

At 60 John Hooper CBE may not class himself as being in full-time work, but the fistful of roles to which he keeps adding reveals that this is not a man to don a pair of slippers and bow out of the industry yet.

At 60 John Hooper CBE may not class himself as being in full-time work, but the fistful of roles to which he keeps adding reveals that this is not a man to don a pair of slippers and bow out of the industry yet.

Last week Campaign announced that Hooper was to replace Peter Warren as non-executive chairman of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB). This appointment is certainly not one which would have elicited shocked gasps from the media industry. Having recently stepped down as director-general of the advertising body ISBA, he has honed a contacts book and a reputation which is ideal for the RAB. The radio body is keen to improve its appeal among the more die-hard advertisers who may still regard it as a throw-away medium.

Douglas McArthur, the chief executive of the RAB, who knows Hooper through the old Procter & Gamble network, says: 'John's two tasks will be first - as a general sounding board - to help to participate in the strategic development of the RAB with me. Second, he will work with me in building our relationships with advertisers.'

'The RAB is an operation which appears to have universal satisfaction,' Hooper declares. 'I think other mediums got rather fed up with me in the past for saying 'why don't you do a RAB?' In radio people are prepared to come to the table, despite competing, and look at what is right for the medium.'

But despite the obvious admiration Hooper has for the organisation he's joining, there's work to be done. 'The RAB has to keep working with the major players to reinforce the effectiveness of radio - a lot of it is just breaking down the long-term attitudes and prejudices of how they used to see radio.'

Having grown in size from a 2 per cent medium to a more significant 6 per cent slice of the advertising market, some industry observers may question how much further the RAB can stretch itself in terms of market share. But McArthur is confident that Hooper will help expand it. 'I think we will get to 8 per cent by 2005. We have been adding half a per cent each year for the past few years. It will get harder, which is why I say we should gain another two points by 2005.'

Hooper may see a more hard-faced set of advertisers in the next couple of years, as everyone begins to tighten their belts and watch the bottom line in anticipation of an economic slowdown. He also joins at a time when the radio landscape is set to change fairly radically and will have to help advertisers understand the implications of those changes, while helping media owners champion their corner. David Mansfield, the chief executive of Capital Radio, observes: 'John's joining at a very challenging time.

It's challenging because the broadcasting legislation and the Government's view is yet to be confirmed, so it's important that radio has a loud voice in all of this. There is also the challenge of the digital world we are now going into. Anybody can start a digital radio station on the internet, so the digital world will change radio's role, and John will need to have a view of the future and how it will affect our advertisers.'

Not yet au fait with the intricacies of digital radio, Hooper holds his hands up and says that over the next few months this is an area where he will climb a steep learning curve. However, in terms of the communications white paper, Hooper has already formed some strong views. 'One of the things Chris Smith said was that he was getting mixed signals from the radio industry in terms of what we want - but that confused us because we thought we were pretty unified on this. I believe, however, that he is extremely open to representation from the industry and it's important that the industry speaks with one voice.'

So if we thought that Hooper's new role was really an excuse to enjoy lots of big lunches with some old pals in the advertising world, perhaps we had better think again.

His success at ISBA has certainly shown that he likes to get stuck in and will not baulk at putting a few noses out of joint if that is what's necessary. He is accredited with successfully leading the ISBA's rehabilitation from a strident, stroppy organisation into a constructive and important industry body. Bob Wootton, the director of advertising and media at ISBA, says: 'ISBA had become curmudgeonly and he took us out of that and put us back on the map.'

With a strong client and agency background, set against his proactive role among advertisers during his stint at ISBA, Hooper is already off on his next quest to champion the RAB's cause. 'He's one of life's great enthusiasts,' Wootton says.


1968: Procter & Gamble, senior brand manager

1972: Scott International Marketing, board director and finance director

1973: Clarke Hooper, group managing director

1991: Scorpion Promotional Marketing Consultancy, managing partner

1994: ISBA, director-general

2001: RAB, non-executive chairman.