To anyone who knows Colin Gottlieb, the pain invoked by not being
allowed to talk about his latest coup is palpable. Every now and then, a
strange look spreads across his face - not unlike a baby preparing to
fill its nappy - and a fit of Tourette’s comes upon him. ’For Gawd’s
sake, that’s off the record!’ he squawks as he claps his hand over his
mouth and raises his eyes skywards.
Poor old Gottlieb. Ten years he’s waited for a Campaign profile and, now
the time is upon him, he’s not allowed to admit that he, as the joint
founder of Manning Gottlieb Media, has engineered a pan-European media
plan for Nissan, created a new company called TBWA.OMD and installed
himself as the boss.
This is one of the biggest things to have happened to the agency since
its birth at a lunch table with backers Simons Palmer ten years ago.
Yet, as always, the agency will likely as not retain its cute but
Some agencies were born old and big. Others can reach their tenth
birthday and push huge amounts of money around, and still cart out the
founding partners on the day-to-day business.
While sitting in his office, a call comes through which serves as a
reminder that while Gottlieb is in charge, MGM won’t lose its intimate
spirit. After his months of top-level negotiation with Omnicom and
Nissan, Gottlieb has a life-or-death conversation with a client who
spends less than pounds 2 million a year. ’He’s not at all lofty, and
always turns up for meetings,’ Rainey Kelly/Y&R’s co-creative director,
Robert Campbell, attests. ’I can’t be cocky,’ Gottlieb lies unwittingly
as he puts the phone down.
But MGM has to change this year, and the partners are doing some serious
head-scratching. A dilemma approaches as Gottlieb points out: ’Can you
grow without changing? We’re doing pounds 200 million a year and haven’t
changed. But can we do that at pounds 400 million? No.’
Growth is essential, however, so that no client wants to leave for a
bigger agency. ’Our clients are all prime targets,’ he adds, looking
around gratefully at the Nike, Virgin and Sony PlayStation logos
adorning the office walls.
Whatever the plan is, his labyrinthine ponderings mask it beautifully,
and I am none the wiser. You won’t see many donkeys with their hind legs
still intact when there’s a Gottlieb in the room. Get him on the end of
the phone and you know you’ll have executed a perfect manicure by the
time he’s got to the point.
But this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows Gottlieb. An overgrown
bulldog puppy, cute and playful, totally unaware of his own
One wag of his tail, a cuff of his mutton-chop paws and he could take
out an entire building. If he approaches you with arms outstretched, you
can kiss your lunch goodbye.
It is impossible to imagine Gottlieb scaling the vertiginous heights of
the OMD ladder. He’s a pathologically loyal husband and father, and has
no interest in spending his life in a Virgin 747 halfway across the
Atlantic. He doesn’t act, or look, like Corporate Man (MediaCom TMB’s
chief executive, Stephen Allan, says he looks more like a cabbie).
Mainly, though, he doesn’t need to. It’s a subject we don’t touch upon,
but it’s clear that he’s loaded. Not ostentatiously - unless you include
the Ferrari Maranello - but he could quite happily play golf in Hadley
Wood for the rest of his days. In fact, he could probably buy Hadley
Gottlieb reminisces for quite some time about the difference selling to
Omnicom for pounds 12 million in 1997 made to his life. This is clearly
a man who will never forget his roots, or how lucky he is to have got
where he is today - even though serious hard graft answers for a hefty
chunk of it.
Perhaps accordingly, he holds little truck with OMD’s keenness to
redecorate MGM with its own colours. He realises, of course, that the
network has an issue with its lack of coherent identity in the UK, but
in his normal, calling-a-spade-a-bastard kind of way, he says: ’That’s
just not my problem - my priority is to Nike, not to OMD. Though I am
happy to help solve it.’
There is no doubt that the formation of TBWA.OMD will go some way to
boosting OMD’s profile in the UK as well as across Europe. Finally, TBWA
will have the same sort of resource as its sisters, BBDO and DDB, and to
see TBWA.OMD pitching for other business is expected. In that way,
Gottlieb has helped solve the problem.
But anyone expecting to find him spending all his time chewing the fat
with network heads will be sorely disappointed. Not while there’s a
kiddie’s birthday party to attend, or a new toy to be had.
The Gottlieb file
Time Buying Services, general assistant
Chris Ingram Associates, non-broadcast planner-buyer
Chris Ingram Associates, associate director
CIA Billett & Company, director
Manning Gottlieb Media, co-founder