Media Headliner: Malegori pushes MindShare's frontiers into barbarian lands

The Europe chief executive takes his cue from ancient roots, Jeremy Lee suggests.

Nine months ago, MindShare appointed Giulio Malegori as the first chief executive of its European network.

Some considered it a surprise choice - in the UK market, at least, Malegori was virtually an unknown quantity (even now, some UK MindShare staff looked blank when asked for their views).

However, he had claimed some level of notoriety when he left CIA Medianetwork in Italy, where he was the chairman of its Blumedia operation, to join WPP's MindShare. The move was a sensitive one because, two years before, Malegori's close colleague and the founder of CIA in Italy, Marco Benatti, had sold a 14.6 per cent stake in CIA to Sir Martin Sorrell, which eventually triggered WPP's takeover of Tempus.

Since then Malegori, 43, has built his reputation establishing MindShare in Italy in 1999 where it quickly rose to primacy, and the European chief executive job was a reward for his efforts in the country, where he remains the chairman of the operation.

MindShare is ranked fifth in Europe in terms of billings and Malegori is tasked with propelling it up the rankings table, much as he did in Italy.

His approach to the business is an intellectual one - he comes across as rather dry and perhaps a little shy - and he claims to draw his inspiration from his education in philosophy.

Malegori's passions include a love of fast cars and hi-fi systems and he is an expert in vintage wines. Unusually for a man coming from a nation so obsessed with football, he is also a big rugby fan.

Malegori draws parallels between the development of the MindShare network in Europe and the expansion of the Roman Empire (although he is Milanese).

And as well as sharing a penchant for all things coloured in imperial purple, MindShare has had similar problems conquering much of what is now Eastern Europe as the Romans did.

"Central and Eastern Europe is quite a complex sub-region; while our position as a whole is not so bad, we definitely have some markets where we have to increase coverage," Malegori concedes.

But while the Romans sought to expand their influence in barbarian areas by buying off local tribal leaders, Malegori says he favours organic growth through new-business prospects.

"This does not necessarily exclude acquisition but I think that there is nothing very significant left at a local level," he says.

He identifies a lifeline in the form of Group M, the relatively new collaboration between MindShare and its sister agency WPP media agency, Mediaedge:cia.

"Group M could have been some help in Eastern Europe. The combined effort in Eastern Europe will put MindShare and MEC at the very top level if not in the number-one position," he claims.

"Our first duty is to build up a structure that will be able to bring more to our clients, while keeping 100 per cent confidentiality. So we are implementing synergies and actions in areas such as IT, back office and procurement."

It is possible that MindShare will end up sharing offices with MEC in some markets and Malegori hints that some clients might have to change their attitude to what looks like conflicting business.

"Clients appreciate that consolidation within the media agency world is inevitable to deal with the considerable consolidation that has already taken place within the media owners. Because of this consolidation, managing conflict is an issue that we have to deal with more and more. Having separation and secure computer systems keeps information about individual clients totally separate."

But there is an argument that group buying merely prostitutes the buying clout of larger clients in order to increase the discount offered to smaller ones. This is a charge that Malegori refutes.

"No two clients' communication plans are ever the same, so no two clients get the same solution. Each solution is based on client-specific business issues and everyone benefits at the end of the day," he says.

France is a pressing issue. In a country dominated by Carat, Malegori is aware that something needs to be done. "I would like to say, even if I could not deny that our critical mass in the French market has to increase, MindShare's operation is a strong and well-performing one," he counters.

Although Malegori won't confirm anything, it seems possible that the two former Carat lynchpins Eryck Rebbouh and Bruno Kemoun (who recently defected to WPP) will play a part in shoring up the company's position in the country.

Along with increased co-operation with MEC, this could be the thing to help Malegori fulfil his imperial ambitions.

The Malegori file

1981: McCann-Erickson, account manager

1985: Nielsen Media, director

1987: CIA Medianetwork, managing director (Italy)

1999: MindShare Italy, chief executive

2003: MindShare Europe, chief executive


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