MEDIA: HEADLINER - Media diva takes over the hot seat at Guardian Newspapers/Carolyn McCall won’t let the newspaper group rest on its laurels, Anna Griffiths writes

This week it was announced that the complementary duo at the helm of Guardian Newspapers, which demonstrated the best elements of girl power, is to come to a graceful close. Caroline Marland, the newspaper group’s managing director, will retire in November and be succeeded by Carolyn McCall, who is now designate managing director.

This week it was announced that the complementary duo at the helm

of Guardian Newspapers, which demonstrated the best elements of girl

power, is to come to a graceful close. Caroline Marland, the newspaper

group’s managing director, will retire in November and be succeeded by

Carolyn McCall, who is now designate managing director.



McCall is enthusiastic about her new role. Aware of the significant

step-change from being the ad director and leading the commercial

development of the company to running the whole show, she acknowledges:

’It’s a huge difference when you go from suddenly running one bit of the

company to the whole thing.’



But for McCall this is a challenge to be relished. ’I really want to do

this job, otherwise I would have to do my own thing - like trying to

join the internet millionaires.’



The industry seems full of McCall admirers while critics are hard to

find. Christine Walker, a founding partner of Walker Media, says: ’She

is one of the most talented individuals in newspapers and, probably,

among media owners. She can be difficult when you are negotiating with

her but she smiles throughout. She’s not someone who gives ground

easily. It’s an annoying thing about her.’



Graham Bednash, a founding partner of Michealides & Bednash, observes:

’Any top ten creative or media agency would kill for Carolyn to be their

chief executive. She’s the best agency chief executive there’s never

been because she’s very talented at running a creative company which

needs to be handled in a different way. All the creative people at

Guardian Newspapers have a huge amount of respect for her.’



At 38, McCall has been promoted at an impressive rate since she first

set foot in The Guardian’s planning department in 1986. It was Marland

who persuaded her to move across to sales. Following this switch she got

promoted nearly every year, making her mark with changes in the

company’s advertising and commercial structure as she worked her way

up.



So expect some radical changes to take place under McCall’s

leadership.



’If you don’t change you die and stultify,’ she states. ’But I hate it

when clients come into companies and the first thing they do is review

the creative account, because it’s the most obvious way of changing

something.’



McCall will not have a deputy. ’I believe if you have a strong board,

you don’t need a deputy because your board occupies that role,’ she

says.



She will find a replacement for the ad director’s role (industry

observers believe it will be the newspaper group’s deputy ad director,

Stuart Taylor) and has a shortlist of people she’s considering for the

marketing director’s post with the impending departure of Stephen Palmer

to Emap.



Aware of the rapidly changing dynamics of the newspaper market, McCall

is setting up a new structure to ensure that brand development keeps

pace.



’We’ve got to be much more nimble and quick in making decisions,’ she

admits.



She points, however, to the substantial editorial revamp of The Guardian

and The Observer, as well as the launch last year of the network of

websites under the Guardian Unlimited brand, as examples of a company

anxious not to let its products stand still.



To quicken the pace, McCall is setting up a business development team as

well as a brand development unit because she believes ’we’re not getting

the benefits of one unit controlling, managing and disseminating

information that is fed in from all the parts of the business’.



The internet is a key part of McCall’s focus, and an area she is no

stranger to, following her involvement with the medium in 1994 when she

was made the ad director of the now defunct magazine Wired. ’While I

could never see us float or joint-venture Guardian Unlimited, there are

other sectors, such as media and film, where you could split the

business out,’ McCall suggests.



She is also looking to develop a separate web brand for The Observer

because ’we’ve got to make sure The Observer doesn’t feel left out of

the action’.



Listing her plans for Guardian Newspapers, it is clear life doesn’t

stand still for McCall, who has radically refashioned her career since

her first job as a history teacher.



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