MEDIA HEADLINER: MediaCom’s chiefs prepare to do battle with industry’s finest - MediaCom has propelled its two bosses into a new league, Claire Beale writes

Imagine, for a moment, that the clock has ticked backwards, that the past 12 months are yet to come. We’ve all got a few less wrinkles, a little less flab. MediaCom TMB hasn’t been born and the world has yet to weep at the pounds 28 million it will cost to deliver.

Imagine, for a moment, that the clock has ticked backwards, that

the past 12 months are yet to come. We’ve all got a few less wrinkles, a

little less flab. MediaCom TMB hasn’t been born and the world has yet to

weep at the pounds 28 million it will cost to deliver.

Jane Ratcliffe is head of client service at MediaCom. She works in a

grubby office in Soho and has some nice bluechip clients. But let’s face

it, MediaCom is marginalised in the UK media market, rarely makes it on

to major-league pitches and, to put it bluntly, just ain’t sexy. As far

as media agencies go, this one doesn’t look like it can go much


Across town, Nick Lawson is the new-business director of the Media


His agency doesn’t rate in the sexy stakes, either, and while there’s

enough new business going down to keep his pecker up, there are also a

few clients who’ve recently decided to make a quick exit by back


Still, things could be worse; he could be the new-business director at


Neither agency is in the top ten and for both media’s party is happening

somewhere else.

Fast forward a year and Ratcliffe and Lawson could be forgiven for

feeling like they’ve just ridden the mother of all roller-coasters.

Their agencies have merged and Ratcliffe’s boss has left. New offices,

pounds 100 million of new business and big new job titles have turned

their world upside down and the duo now find themselves running the UK’s

third-largest media agency.

As the newly appointed joint managing directors of MediaCom TMB,

Ratcliffe and Lawson have emerged from the shadows to snaffle what just

might be two of the plummest jobs in town.

But sweep your eye across the broad expanse of media professionals -

would you pick Lawson and Ratcliffe to be your agency chiefs? Would they

be top choice to drive your business forward, inject some dynamism and

personality into an agency that, despite the merger and recent

new-business success, remains something of an enigma?

Shall we be honest? If you’d heard of them, they probably wouldn’t top

your list. But if neither were publicly ear-marked as tomorrow’s people,

then you might blame the agencies they worked for. If your agency

doesn’t sparkle, it’s hard to shine. Given public perceptions about

MediaCom and TMB, though, it’s probably no bad thing that the pair were

hardly headline hoggers. Talk to Ratcliffe and Lawson today and there’s

a definite sense of liberation, of escaping the shadows and emerging

into the spotlight of a new, stronger company.

Ratcliffe says she feels ’enthused and raring to go’. Lawson swears that

the last six months have been ’the most fulfiling of my entire


Such sentiments could easily sound trite, but forgive me for suspending

cynicism; it would be a jaded man indeed who didn’t relish the prospect

of running what MediaCom TMB has become - a top three player, and one

ripe for a bit of shaping. Lawson says simply: ’We’ve been set free and

both sides recognise the need to be different this time. We have the

chance to express ourselves now and it’s been great to see how the

entire team has embraced that opportunity.’

And while the pair may not have been obvious industry high-flyers a year

ago, there are many who would testify to their talents.

Paul Phillips, the head of the AAR’s media division, points out that,

while their focus may have been more on client servicing than personal

fame, Ratcliffe and Lawson make for ’a complementary coupling’. He adds:

’They believe in what they do and they believe in the efficacy of

MediaCom TMB.’

Of course, joint anything’s have often proved a tricky formula, but this

pair are confident their skills will neatly mesh.

Ratcliffe (36 and what you’d call bright and bubbly) is, by all

accounts, a damn good people person, a great focal point internally;

Lawson says he asked around at the time of the merger and was told she

had been ’the soul of MediaCom’. Lawson (33 and a bit of a mean-looking

bugger) is a solid new-business guy, with marketing nous and an

aggressive ambition which helped fuel some dramatic growth at TMB.

Ratcliffe says her first impressions of her new colleague were ’tall and

good-looking’. Now she knows him better, she thinks he’s ’hard on the

outside but soft on the inside - the opposite of me’.

Ratcliffe’s the one who talks about clients, servicing, listening, while

Lawson outlines a bullish three-point plan for improvement: the need to

develop a real personality for MediaCom TMB based around its positioning

as a big agency with the passion of a small one; the development of a

training programme to enhance talent; and a focus on investment to

ensure cutting-edge people are matched by cutting-edge systems.

What’s more, both are very aware that they are taking on a big job and

the idea of sharing it is a comforting one. ’Given the size of our

business and our ambitions, this would be a colossal task for one

person,’ Ratcliffe admits.

This time last year, many wouldn’t have rated their chances. But in the

light of the new dawn at MediaCom TMB’s Euston headquarters, Ratcliffe

and Lawson have scrubbed up quite nicely. And with MediaCom TMB now

riding something of a crest, 12 months seems like a very, very long time