Ooooo, he’s smart, Mark Cranmer. He never gave up. The plot to
merge Motive and Burnett’s media collapsed almost two years ago, but
Cranmer doesn’t do failure. Last week the deal was back in play
(Campaign, 14 January) and Cranmer was anointed head of the UK’s newest
top ten media agency, the new Starcom Motive Partnership.
This shouldn’t be about Mark Cranmer. He’s a media guy who went round
the block years ago. We’ve all read the profiles, tracked the successes,
envied the accolades, dropped our jaws at those stories of outrageous
laddish madness. We’ve done Mark Cranmer, yawn.
This should be about the birth of an exciting new-media agency, the
merger of Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s highly respected, award-winning Motive
and Burnett’s fledgling Starcom, which already has some covetable wins
under its belt and great prospects.
It should, perhaps, be all about the talent. The Starcom managing
directors, David Connolly and Richard Beaven, who have proved in the
last year that they can beat bigger and more established media agencies
to blue-chip business. Or Motive’s Iain Jacobs, Kevin Brown and Andy
Roberts, who form the day-to-day team that has established Motive’s
credentials as one of the most sophisticated media brands in town.
But it isn’t. Because I wonder whether SMP would exist at all without
Mark Cranmer. Cranmer is the architect of SMP, its UK managing director
and, in a nicely confusing twist, also head of Burnett’s Starcom in
OK, you could be forgiven for thinking he’s power-crazed, but this is a
delicate political situation and so Cranmer has shied away from
appointing a second in command from either Starcom or Motive (’Butchers
are where you get joints from, not us,’ he quips).
Cranmer is sharp, uncompromising, slightly sinister. He can be wickedly
funny (oh, the stories mates could tell ... but not in print); staff
note his fiery temper. He’s laid back but edgy, charming, aggressive and
arrogant, but he gives good modesty, too.
The question, really, is whether Cranmer can carry with him the Starcom
people who are just finding their feet and realising - perhaps too late
- that they can actually do nicely on their own (last week they scooped
Heinz’s strategic planning business and Lego in northern Europe). After
all, when a Motive/Burnetts media merger was first mooted two years ago,
the whole thing fell apart because both sides decided that, actually,
they really didn’t like each other.
Cranmer spent much of last year using his position on the Starcom
Worldwide board to get the deal back on track. Timing, though, is
everything. Cranmer managed to secure agreement for the UK deal just
ahead of the global merger of Burnett and MacManus, whose MediaVest
agency in London had been close to a merger with Starcom the year
before. Even as the MediaVest team celebrated the prospect of renewed
merger talks with Starcom, Cranmer was sizing up Motive’s office to
ensure there was room for the Starcom team.
SMP means that there is now little prospect of Burnett and MacManus
forming the UK’s second-largest media operation by merging Starcom and
MediaVest. But Cranmer is no fan of volume. He insists that size holds
little value unless you pervert your business to do agency deals with
media owners - both Motive and Starcom pride themselves on eschewing
agency deals. SMP is about cultural fit, not size for size’s sake.
It is, Cranmer says, ’about creating a business that is product-focused
and organises itself objectively around clients’ best interests.
It’s about realising the broader context that we are trying to build
brands and is less about an outdated obsession with the media owners’
But SMP does offer Starcom and Motive the opportunity to move from the
sidelines of media consolidation, though the new company will still sit
outside the top five. And although neither Motive nor Starcom are
desperate for change, both have much to gain. Motive has been a very
successful company, but its blue-chip new-business successes have not
taken the breath away. It’s also basically a UK operation, despite its
expertise in handling international media strategy. Starcom has big,
international business but it needs a more diversified client base.
SMP offers Motive’s UK clients the tantalising prospect of an
international network based on Motive’s media philosophy. For Starcom’s
clients the deal signifies a recognition that Burnett wants to be a key
media player. It’s also a way of shoring up Starcom’s European network -
which desperately needs more volume and leadership if it is to begin to
compete with the likes of Carat or MindShare.
As head of Starcom Europe, Cranmer has a serious task ahead, and one
which is going to require enormous amounts of energy and patience. Yet
he insists on running the UK too. Why? ’I feel I’m the best person to
sort out how the businesses mesh together here, and I’ll leave the guys
to focus on the product and delivery issues,’ Cranmer explains. ’I’ll
soon be focusing my attention on the Continent, but the UK will be the
lead office for Europe and so it’s important we get this right.’ He
admits it will probably be the end of his hairline, blissfully unaware
that his hairline went AWOL years ago.