Media Headliner: No-nonsense Eaves to cut through all the hot air

Mark Eaves reveals how he is aiming to capitalise on Drum's broadcast reputation to move into online content.

PHD's "pioneering" positioning certainly applies in one area of media. In terms of the creation and distribution of content, it has been one of the leaders of the game.

It acquired the Drum sponsorship and content business as far back as 1997, a long time before many branded content businesses were even a twinkle in the eye of their creators.

The founders, Laurence Munday and Simon George, had initially launched the business in 1994, and it was the departure of this duo last month that has put Drum back under the spotlight.

Munday and George have left PHD to launch a similar-sounding business, called Space, for Aegis Media. PHD reacted quickly to this news by appointing Mark Eaves, the managing director of Drum's content creation business, Drum Screen, as the overall managing director of Drum PHD.

PHD is convinced that Eaves, plus a couple of other recent senior appointments, can more than plug the gap left by Munday and George. Observers from outside the agency say that Drum may miss Munday's appeal as the public face of the agency and George's strategic strengths and acumen, but that there is no doubting that Eaves has led a selection of its more interesting initiatives of late.

Tess Alps, a former chairman of Drum, who helped to lead its transformation from a sponsorship to wider content-led business, says of Eaves (imaginatively nicknamed "Eavesy" by colleagues): "He's particularly good with production companies, and at getting things off the ground. He's worked on lots of government department initiatives, and demonstrated that he was a master of project development and strategic ideas. It's inevitable that people leave businesses, but I think you'll find that all the staff (at Drum) will be thrilled."

Born and bred in Blackpool, Eaves joined Drum ten years ago direct from university. He was fresh from a first in English Literature at UCL, and was pleased to land a job at a company that was only a hundred metres away from where he'd been studying.

In those days, the business was sponsorship focused, but, as the years went on, Drum moved more into the content creation side of things, eventually leading to the launch of Drum Screen two years ago. Eaves has been heavily involved with this evolution, and has successfully built strong links with production companies.

And there is every indication that Eaves can lead the business into an interesting future. Ad-funded programming has been hyped for several years now, but Drum has dozens of examples of large-scale initiatives within this area (branded masthead programming for the likes of Adidas and The Guardian on Channel 4, and more recent examples include a cinema and online campaign for the North West Development Agency, and an upcoming ad-funded series from Transport for London that will appear on Channel 4's T4 strand).

So where does Eaves see the opportunity for Drum? "We're reaching a moment of critical mass in terms of online content distribution," he says. "Up until now, there hasn't been much justification to invest time, effort and money in quality internet-only content. But this is a big area for us, we want to take our reputation in the broadcast space into online content."

To help spearhead this, PHD and Drum recently appointed Rupert Britton as the content strategy director. He joins from the online content specialist Decipher, and will work across the group in an effort to link in Drum's content skills with the rest of PHD.

A key element of this will be to build closer working relationships with the digital planners in PHD's PHDiQ division. Simon Wells, a former head of TV at WCRS and director at Endemol, takes over from Eaves at Drum Screen.

Broadly, Drum is involved in two types of activity. The first being what Eaves has christened the "harnessing of content". This includes setting up broadcast sponsorships for the likes of Sainsbury's (the drama premieres deal with ITV) and Yell (the supporter of films on Channel 4).

Its second area of interest is content creation, which it sees as the bigger growth area for the future.

And it's the freedom that Drum can have when working on a campaign that most drives Eaves. He says: "We start with a blank canvas. We're not working to the parameters of a 30-second spot or the dimensions of a page ad.

"Freedom excites us, and we're definitely at our best when we are delivering something that consumers are excited by."

The other potential area of expansion for Drum is geographical. Now the PHD network is at least up and running, Drum is looking at ways in which to work on a larger scale across clients who have a presence overseas.

Eaves, who still follows his local football team, Blackpool FC (although he does admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Liverpool), isn't one to get too carried away by the hype and bluster that surrounds his area of business.

He says: "I'm very passionate about only being judged by the projects that we have produced. Whenever there is a high level of interest about an area of communications that is in vogue, then so much nonsense is spoken. In this case, it's about how advertisers should use content.

"If anything, I'd urge people to calm down a little, because there is so much hot air being spoken."

Age: 30
Lives: Highbury (but I'm not a Gooner)
Family: Recently engaged to Rebecca
Most treasured possession: Our home
Favourite TV shows: Currently, Flight of the Conchords. Also slightly
obsessed with Peep Show
Last book you read: Black Mass by John Gray, very persuasive. Simon
Armitage's wit also appeals, so I often dip into his stuff
Motto: Mustn't grumble

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