MEDIA: HEADLINER; The odd couple preparing to make their mark at Burnetts

Claire Beale grills the duo who, together, have to fill Nick Brien’s media shoes

Claire Beale grills the duo who, together, have to fill Nick Brien’s

media shoes

They’re not exactly a pretty couple. David Connolly, the brash Scotsman,

and Richard Beaven, the other one, probably wouldn’t pick each other on

Blind Date.

Yet observe them in action together in their new roles as joint media

directors of Leo Burnett, and it’s clear why these guys make a pretty

good team.

They’re complementary, you see. Connolly (36, and endowed with the sort

of face that invites you to share the joke) is all heart-on-sleeve fire

and passion, inspiration and perspiration. Beaven (29, and shorter) may

not be the type to slap you across the face with the force of his

personality, but he’s steady and sensible. He’s definitely the calming

influence, the client hand-holder, the straight man - he sets up the

gags, Connolly fires them, his Scottish tongue rolling over itself in

his enthusiasm.

In this, their honeymoon period, mutual appreciation runs riot. ‘Richard

is able to look at things with a greater perspective,’ Connolly

observes. ‘He’s always well prepared and organised.’ To prove this he

waves a sheaf of notes prepared for him by Beaven for use in the

interview: ‘He takes my impulsive ideas, shapes the good ones and

manages to convince me that the bad ones are crap.’ And weaknesses?

Connolly says he hasn’t found any.

Asked to supply the same critique of his partner, Beaven is equally

diplomatic: ‘A lot of people know David as an excellent negotiator, a

brilliant TV operator. But if that’s all they see, then they’ve missed

some real valuable aspects of his personality. David’s a great team

player, very lateral thinking, a brilliant ideas man.’ Even more

diplomatically (we’re not supposed to mention alcohol or women) Beaven

adds: ‘He’s a good social mover.’

If there’s one minor criticism Connolly has of his sidekick, it’s that

Beaven is quite reserved. ‘He doesn’t show his emotions,’ a bemused

Connolly says. ‘When we won the United Biscuits media centralisation

(pounds 16 million and a major triumph for the agency last year in the

face of stiff competition) I looked across at Richard sipping his drink

quietly in the corner of the bar. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t

want to get up on the tables and dance.’ Connolly, on the other hand,

admits to being ‘too emotional’.

They make an extremely likeable couple. The sort you’d invite over for

supper. Connolly would spend all night making you laugh and Beaven would

probably offer to do the washing up.

But nice ain’t enough to cut it in a media business where full-service

media departments are regularly being turned over by their more nimble

media independent competitors. Yet the marriage of Connolly and Beaven

is built on solid media experience.

Connolly has incontinence and catheter complaints to thank for his big

break into media, starting out as a sales executive on magazines such as

Nursing Mirror in 1980. After stints selling space on the Daily Record

and airtime at STV, Connolly jumped over the fence to join the media

independent, IDK, in 1989. IDK’s managing director, Tony Kenyon, remains

a big hero.

The rise of Beaven, 29, has been speedier, despite his lower profile.

After graduating from Bristol Polytechnic with a degree in business

studies, Beaven set his heart on an agency job and finally found a post

in a London agency in 1988, joining Geers Gross as a media

planner/buyer. In 1989 he moved across the road to Leo Burnett, where he

first teamed up with Connolly. After a brief defection to Saatchi and

Saatchi, Beaven returned to Burnetts last year.

You could argue that having ‘joint’ on your business card means ‘not

good enough to go it alone’ and, in this case, you’d probably be

right...for now. In fact, it’s hard to see either Beaven or Connolly

single-handedly filling Nick Brien’s shoes. But put them together and

these two halves make for a pretty convincing whole.

The Connolly file

1980 Magazine sales executive

1984 Daily Record, sales executive

1985 STV, senior negotiator

1989 IDK, group head

1991 Leo Burnett, broadcast director

1996 Leo Burnett, joint media director

The Beaven file

1986 Ford Farrow, media trainee

1987 Associated Poster Marketing, sales manager

1988 Geers Gross, media planner/buyer

1989 Leo Burnett, media planner/buyer

1993 Saatchi and Saatchi, planning group head

1995 Leo Burnett, group media director

1996 Leo Burnett, joint media director