The trip across the Atlantic is not all plain sailing for Charles
Courtier. His recent promotion from the post of managing director of
Europe, the Middle East and Africa at The Media Edge to the role of
global chief operating officer has left him with a pressing problem.
Namely, finding somewhere to live for his family in his new base in New
Courtier sounds cool under the pressure as he speaks of spending the
past few days tramping around the well-heeled upstate district of
Westchester to find a house. However, the real task will begin when he
takes over the reins at The Media Edge in several weeks' time.
Courtier, 40, launched The Media Edge across the EMEA region where he
was responsible for 37 markets. However, his task now is more
challenging as he works with the chairman, Beth Gordon, in moving The
Media Edge forward under WPP's ownership.
Courtier joined Y&R in the early 90s and worked as a regional director
in central and eastern Europe. He has built up a serious knowledge of
the European media scene and also of smaller markets in the EMEA region
and has been asked to bring this to bear on strengthening The Media Edge
The conventional wisdom is that The Media Edge (the world's
seventh-largest media operation in terms of billings) is strong in the
US (where it is the fifth-largest media operation) but weaker in Europe
and Asia (in Europe, it is 11th).
Courtier blames 'lazy journalists' for this perception, but admits there
is work to do. His aim is to build The Media Edge in all markets: 'We
must function as a genuine global network. In truth, many media agencies
don't. We are better than most but there may be room for
Courtier says a key part of his role will be to build closer
collaboration with WPP's other major media network, MindShare.
Speculation was rife when WPP acquired Y&R that The Media Edge would be
merged with MindShare, which is seen as strong in the markets where The
Media Edge is weak but has less of a US presence. Courtier says a merger
was never on the cards.
He will work with Gordon to find ways of collaborating with
He says: 'There is fantastic potential. The plan is to create a media
holding company within which will sit the WPP media properties. This is
work in progress but there will be two networks and two management
The collaboration with MindShare is likely to involve closer work on
research and support services. More importantly, Courtier says, 'in some
cases it may involve working with MindShare on buying'. This may be
particularly interesting in the UK and France where The Media Edge has
no buying operation and has used Media Planning Group.
As Courtier points out, this relationship only persists in two markets
but it seems unlikely to last for much longer following the WPP deal.
MindShare's appointment to work on the film company UIP's UK buying
earlier this year is the first example of such a move.
MindShare is keen to work closely with The Media Edge. Dominic Proctor,
chief executive of MindShare Worldwide, says: 'We will be working
closely together. The media business is about volume and this puts us in
a strong position.'
There are some critics, however, of The Media Edge's true potential and
of Courtier's ability. One global agency chief says: 'It seems strange
to take Charles from running a ragbag operation in Europe to the role of
However, Courtier himself is relishing the move to New York, his first
US posting, and claims to bring some much needed experience of smaller
markets to the States. 'I do bring a broad international perspective,'
he says. 'When running a global network not all countries are like those
in North America. The vast majority are smaller and I come with
experience of EMEA, which is typical of the global situation.'
Proctor says: 'Charles is the right guy for the job. The qualities
required are an odd mixture of passion for the media business and
commercial acumen. Charles clearly has both.'
WPP has hired a safe pair of hands in handing Courtier the global
This is clearly its first priority after the ousting of the global
strategy chief, Paul Woolmington, at the end of last year. Gordon, who
is remaining with The Media Edge as global chairman, will concentrate on
developing strategy and finding ways of working with other WPP
companies. Courtier says they already have a good relationship: 'Over
the past couple of years, Beth and I have worked closely together. I
need her experience in the chairman's role and somebody to guide me
through the North American plumbing.'
It will be interesting to see if Courtier achieves his goal of turning
The Media Edge into a truly global network. Much will depend on how the
developments with MindShare work out.
THE COURTIER FILE
1989: Horizons Media, account director
1991: Y&R Media, regional director (central and eastern Europe)
1993: Y&R Media Europe, European media director and managing
1998: The Media Edge, managing director, Europe, the Middle East and
2001: The Media Edge, global chief operating officer.