MEDIA HEADLINER: MGM turns to above-the-line stalwart for new partnership - Wright aims to revamp the agency’s communications output

Colin Gottlieb isn’t actually clucking but the gaze he bestows on the new partner, Alison Wright, of his agency, Manning Gottlieb Media, is so full of avuncular pride that I can almost see feathers sprouting from his broad shoulders.

Colin Gottlieb isn’t actually clucking but the gaze he bestows on

the new partner, Alison Wright, of his agency, Manning Gottlieb Media,

is so full of avuncular pride that I can almost see feathers sprouting

from his broad shoulders.

The culmination of months of planning, searching and negotiating is

sitting on his right. Wright, a former partner at HHCL & Partners, is

nodding enthusiastically and injecting rapier-sharp ideas and opinions

into the conversation.

On Gottlieb’s left, however, is a gap roughly the size of another

partner, whose identity remains unknown due to various hiccups and false


But although the chair is empty for now, the exhaustive search process

has at least sharpened MGM’s resolve and honed Gottlieb’s and Nick

Manning’s ideas of what is required to take the agency into its next ten


To dwell on the absence of this last partner would be to do an injustice

to Wright, who is the proverbial shot in the arm required by an agency

that is far from jaded, but by nature constantly looking for the next

leap forward.

MGM’s mission statement is five pages long, but Wright’s brief can be

encapsulated in a few words: achieve innovation in communication for

clients over and above what other media agencies are offering.

In short, Wright sits at the ideas and strategy end of the spectrum with

’partner number four’ at the statistical and modelling end - applying

the knowledge that Wright’s work will throw up.

Sound familiar? Let’s not forget that there is one big difference in

MGM’s move: Wright has a pure, unadulterated above-the-line


An unconventional move to say the least and one, perhaps, which is

testament to the almost unique appeal of MGM.

Wright explains that the advertising industry’s surprise is a compliment

to HHCL. ’It might be a strange move for someone to leave TBWA to go to

a media agency, but not HHCL.’

Wright joined HHCL to work on the AA business, moving on to the team

that pitched for, and won, the Pearl account. Her most recent task was

for Britvic, developing the ’untypical for HHCL’ campaign for Robinsons

Fruit and Barley range.

Her job is partially outlined in the mission statement: ’Alison will be

responsible for developing MGM’s understanding of consumer needs and

patterns of behaviour. She will bring her broad account handling

experience to bear on the business background to communications issues

and the consumer and brand-based routes to solutions ... including the

ability to develop creative briefs which encourage innovation in

creative execution.’

People like Wright don’t come cheap, so Gottlieb explains why the

investment was made. ’We still have to buy a discount off station, the

best billboards, the best magazine space, but clients want to know how

to create differentiation. We have to go one step further and for that,

we are making a major investment. This isn’t just a back door to new


It is more than likely that Wright’s arrival will spark a number of

me-too moves from other agencies, although it is also likely that some

may miss the point.

Indeed, Gottlieb and Wright are amused by the number of people who get

the wrong end of the stick and ask whether MGM is about to start

producing creative work.

What her role is supposed to do is bring media forward to an earlier

stage in a client’s strategy. ’What I am bringing from the creative side

is an ability to look at communication, rather than execution or

medium,’ she says.

’I have a feeling for brands, and can look at how people make decisions.

Nowadays, media planning can’t come after message planning as it is more

complex than just plugging the creative idea into a media channel.’

But however much MGM is keen to not have Wright’s appointment

interpreted as a fandangly pitching tool, new business does come into


’We do need to upgrade our new-business offer,’ Gottlieb

admits, ’as we have recently found it to be a bit of a distraction,

which isn’t healthy. The biggest task in a pitch is to reach a point of

view. Clients don’t just want to see numbers and case histories - they

want an answer and, with Alison’s help, that should be easier and more


He adds, glowing: ’A partner from the agency whose chairman is the

president of the IPA has come here. We’re trying to say that our

business is growing up and being taken more seriously. But the overall

beauty of it is that nobody has the answer.’



Grey Advertising, graduate trainee


Bainsfair Sharkey Trott, account manager


HHCL & Partners, account director


HHCL & Partners, partner


Manning Gottlieb Media, partner