Media Headliner: Pollard gets set to ease Naked's growing pains

Popular Ivan Pollard has been inundated with offers but has plumped for an agency where he can have fun.

Come the new year, Ivan Pollard, the diminutive prince of planning, will swap the elegance of Wigmore Street and the agency formerly known as The Ingram Partnership for Naked's quirky Clerkenwell office, where he will become a partner.

Pollard, 43, recalls a scene from LA Story to convey his excitement.

"Sarah Jessica Parker jumps on Steve Martin and he says: 'I should warn you, I'm old and it'll take some time ... Oh my God, I'm young again!' It's a bit like that. As Ingram's youngest partner, I've felt like a bit of a maverick - and wet behind the ears - because there are some seriously smart grown-ups there. But at Naked, I'll be the oldest and the most traditional."

He becomes Naked's fourth partner alongside Will Collin, John Harlow and Jon Wilkins (there's also Barry Dudley, Naked's commercial partner) and a shareholder in the agency.

Pollard's arrival is a coup for the company, which will benefit from his US contacts when it launches in New York next year. Naked is also sizing up cities in which to open more regional hubs to add to those already established in Sydney, Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm.

Pollard will work on big global accounts, such as Coca-Cola and Nokia, as well as bolster the Naked product at a time of growing pains. He says: "The Naked brand is bigger than the people. Most agencies are normally crap at doing for themselves what they do for their clients, but Naked can open an office in Australia and it's an immediate success."

Collin, with whom Pollard worked at BMP in the early 90s, describes him as "the natural fourth partner". He explains: "Ivan started Unity, so he knows the pressures of managing a strategic communications business. He has also worked for long enough in the industry to have started in full service, so he understands the creative side of the business. Very few people have that breadth and length of experience."

Reflecting on Naked's task of preserving quality while expanding, Collin says: "Our original three-man partnership needs to broaden. We're flying around a lot now and, increasingly, the three of us aren't together in the office at the same time. We need senior know-how and experience to meet the increased managerial burden."

Pollard, who has been at Ingram since it launched in 2003, cut his teeth at BMP during its glory days in the late 80s. He stayed there for nine years ("I loved it"), working his way up to deputy media director. In 1997, after a two-year stint as the media director of Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam, he launched Unity with his former BMP colleagues Derek Morris and Andy Tilley. Six years later, Chris Ingram snapped up Unity for his start-up.

Pollard has been a feature of the UK media planning scene for the best part of two decades and is well liked and respected. It is certainly testament to his talent and his character that, when he was sizing up the options for his next move, Pollard received a generous helping of job offers from various agencies, a media owner and even a film company in the US. So what made him plump for Naked?

"I admire it for doing what we set out to do at Unity. Naked could not have existed if the likes of Unity and Michaelides & Bednash had not been around before - we laid the groundwork and they capitalised on it," he says. "I admire the magic at Naked. I like the blokes there - I know Will and Jon Wilkins from BMP - and I want to go somewhere where I can have fun."

He insists he will miss the people at Ingram, saying: "I go to work for the people first, the work second, and the money third." However, Pollard concludes: "It was rather too much science and too little art for me. Ingram is a serious, grown-up business for chief executives. It is still about brands and media, but it has added in the management consultancy gene, which demands a more structured and process-oriented approach rather than a creative one."

While at Ingram, Pollard worked on London's Olympic bid - a definite highlight of his stint there.

A keen footballer and a massive sports fan, he comments: "Thinking I had a little to do with making that happen was stunning."

Yet his proudest achievement was helping to launch the consultancy from scratch. "Bringing together the different cultures from branding, design, media and management consultancy has been incredibly interesting," he says.

Pollard now faces a period of gardening leave before he can take up his new position. He will use his time off to learn to drive, go to the gym ("to get the body of Adonis") and ride his unicycle around Regent's Park.

He is an endearingly self-effacing and mildly eccentric figure, who appears to love what he does for a living and will happily work around the clock.

"For the past 20 years, I've completely defined myself by work," he admits.

He did, however, find the time to meet his wife, Elizabeth, while working at Unity; she continues to work at Ingram.

Pollard has a considerable advantage in being known - and admired - by his future partners. Collin says: "When it comes to top strategic talent, Ivan's reputation is better than anyone else's in the market. It is like he's been living in a parallel universe to us; if things had been different, he might have been with Naked from the start."

THE LOWDOWN Age: 43 Lives: Primrose Hill, London Family: Mother is a farmer in France; father is a doctor in Newcastle; two brothers and a sister; wife, Elizabeth Most treasured possession: My right foot Last book you read: Until I Find You by John Irving Favourite film: The Incredibles Interests outside work: All sport (watching and playing), laughing, reading, cameras Most admired agency: BMP Motto: Work hard, do good, laugh lots


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