MEDIA: headliner; Research addict takes on the world with Initiative’s venture

Sue Elms wants to be sure IM Futures makes it to the top.

Sue Elms wants to be sure IM Futures makes it to the top.

It is the end of the interview and Sue Elms, Initiative Media board

member and managing director of the newly launched IM Futures (Campaign,

last week), has my pen. I want it back. We tussle over it.

‘I’m patient and I’ll wait - I don’t mind waiting. People don’t realise

that I’ll sit there and wait, fight my case and get what I want.’

To be honest, wanting the pen is understandable. It is one of those

Pilot Hi-Tecpoints which, as all pen aficionados know, rank among the

most stolen pens in the world. This time, however, there is no deal. I

keep the pen. Elms has nothing to be down about, she’s just made the

board and is one of the highest-profile women in her business.

This is not bad for a woman who left school at 16, before returning to

evening classes in Bridgend to be a hairdresser. She isn’t that keen to

tell the hairdressing story, but you get the impression that she could

be successful in whatever she chooses, a view backed up by colleagues

and friends.

From Bridgend, Elms headed for London. She went to Kingston Polytechnic

to complete a business degree and later a postgraduate in marketing.

Elms says that at the time most of her fellow students were keen to work

for Lever Brothers - partly because it is based in Kingston - but also

because it’s a well-regarded company.

However, a cousin of Elms’s, who was already in the advertising

business, got her an interview at Leo Burnetts. From this she landed a

job in the research department. Elms could have ended up in planning or

account management because, as she admits, ‘I’m not a massive planner or

anything - I didn’t have it all mapped out’.

The common perception of those in research is of boffins who spend their

time being asked the unknown and replying with the unintelligible, all

of it achieved by sifting through vast amounts of data, and worrying

over a 2 per cent drift in Barb frequency. Not so, Elms says, and that

is part of the reason Initiative’s new global research and development

unit, IM Futures, is called what it is.

It is an effort to break the mould. ‘In the past, researchers have tried

to build a mystique around what they do when really it is all quite

simple. It is about turning a wad of numbers into something the

advertiser can understand and use,’ she says.

Mould-breaking is perfect for Elms. She is, as everyone seems to say,

one of a new breed of researchers, a breed that is as happy in the

spotlight as in the back room. Rosi Ware, managing director of Millward

Brown, says Elms has more of a strategic planning background and is one

of a generation who ‘will hopefully be running the industry in a few

years’ time’.

Stephen White, a partner at Fairbrother White European Auditing and

Consulting and an ex-Lintas colleague of Elms’s, agrees. ‘There are not

many like her around. She is international and I think she has a long

way to go yet.’

These are compliments that will go down well with Elms, who clearly has

big ambitions.

‘My first husband became a Jehovah’s Witness and thought any kind of

ambition was evil. But winning is a big thing for me and I am ambitious.

I am not one of those people who is up on every platform, but I’m only

35. Maybe by the time I’m 45 I will be on every platform,’ she laughs.

Few are surprised by Initiative’s latest move and the promotion of Elms.

Many see it as a richly deserved reward for one who has been devoted to

the agency, less a six-month foray at S. P. Consultants, since it was


But while she is ambitious, Phil Georgiadis, Initiative’s chief

executive, says she marries it with a knowledge of how to get the best

out of people.

It probably helps that Elms is not at all pretentious. Now a resident of

North London, she is down-to-earth and accessible. Given the choice,

she’d rather a few pints of Stella and a curry with her Geordie Publicis

copywriter husband, Jonathan Eley, and friends than a trip to the Ivy.

What they all seem to say is that Elms will go far. Mike Sommers, chief

executive of the marketing consultancy, Paradigm Agency, believes that,

if anything, Elms doesn’t realise how good she is.

Elms is driven and, as she says: ‘Researchers are incredibly insecure

because they’re always asked the unknown. It is very stressful, but I

enjoy finding things. It is what fascinates me.’


The Elms file


1983    Leo Burnett, research assistant

1986    Lintas, media research assistant

1989    Initiative Media London, research director

1992    IM Technologies, managing director

1994    S. P. Consultants, chief executive

1995    Initiative, International research director

1996    IM Worldwide, board member

1996    IM Futures, managing director



CAM # 29:11:96

MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Ignore the critics, Terry and Dani are just right

for Pepsi 





Photograph (omitted)

The Word with Terry Christian. Didn’t you just hate it? Well, yes I did

actually, and nor was I alone - certainly among the media movers and

shakers with whom such things come up in conversation. And didn’t

Channel 4 drop the Word because it was a dog’s breakfast, as was our

Terry (Dani wasn’t much better either), not to mention the fact that its

ratings plummeted? Well, yes it did, now you come to think of it.

Not surprisingly, the current topic of conversation runs along these

lines. Media bloke (and I paraphrase here) to trade journalist: ‘We know

the current trend is to get your ads to look like a programme, and wow,

everybody knows how successful ‘Miller Time’ was. Great, innovative

piece of media thinking. Booking the Pepsi thing into Baywatch is a good

idea since it draws the target audience. It’s advertising as event TV.

But if everybody hates Terry, Dani and the Word, and its audience was

falling, how come Pepsi is making three-minute ads based on it? And

anyway, Baywatch’s been dropped now, heh heh, so that’s blown that.’

Trade journalist to media bloke: ‘Yeah, well, right, you’ve got a point

there. Pepsi must be mad, or maybe Terry’s cheap.’

But is it? Might there just be a bit of method in its madness? It may be

fashionable to knock the Word, and good fun to give Pepsi a bit of a

kicking too, but hold on. Have you seen any of Terry’s three-minute

wonders? They’re good, not least because they do what the Word should

have done - i.e. squeeze the whole thing into three minutes.

More than that, however, whatever we may think of the Word, it pretty

much created a genre of programming. As a programme it may not have been

up to all that much outside the youth market, but it became a powerful


Even more to the point, this is not so much an ad, at least not in the

sense that ‘Miller Time’ was, but a promotion in which the mechanic is a

complicated numbers game. And promotions are a very different kettle of

fish - different as in ‘essentially very boring’ and ‘difficult to do’,

especially to the Pepsi target market. Don’t forget that this market, to

paraphrase the Pepsi Max ad, has ‘been there, tried that, done it last

week’. So wrapping it all up in a format they know and understand, and

then running ‘this is an advertisement’ on the screen is just the kind

of thing they like. It’s the sort of device that allows the audience to

think ‘we know you know we know it’s all a big game, but we’re enjoying

it anyway’. It also implies that Pepsi is a company that can laugh at

itself - a crucial quality to this audience and something that Coke

doesn’t really have and, of its other competitors, only Tango can lay

claim to.

If Pepsi’s success - well, it would say that wouldn’t it, but it seems

to be working - shows other advertisers that you can be innovative with

promotions, then it’ll have done us all a favour.

Now all Pepsi has to do is get over the blue can fiasco.


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