Marcus Rich, the man who once rewarded an FHM team for upping its circulation with two multipacks of Walkers crisps, has been made Emap Advertising's new managing director. While such modest gestures are unlikely to impress Emap Advertising's 250 workers, they are probably just relieved an appointment has been made after a lengthy five-month process.
Rich's hiring last week was a surprise. He was an internal candidate (most recently the managing director of Emap Performance) and one who is something of an unknown quantity to media agencies.
Emap plumped for Rich as the replacement for Dave King, who left to join Telegraph Group, from a list of candidates thought to have included the likes of Tony Wheble, the former commercial director of Flextech TV, and Mark Chippendale, formerly the sales director at Sky. Their broadcast background suggested Emap was keen to continue the sales model that King was beginning to put in place before he left in December.
King, who was from a broadcast background himself, began to introduce up-front package deals to media agencies in the style of broadcast trading.
However, with the exception of an 18-month stint at Performance, Rich has spent most of his career in magazines. An Emap lifer, he has worked with the company since 1992.
"Working in Sydney was a sweet spot," he says (he was the managing director at Emap Australia for two years). He also points to his roles with FHM as highlights.
Rich was part of the team that launched FHM in the US and later, as the managing director of FHM Worldwide, he oversaw the title's growth into more than 25 territories. "It was all fun," he says. "Having lunch with Pamela Anderson is one I still dine out on. My wife said my only responsibility was to get within five yards of beautiful celebrities and drool."
Rich's appointment has been welcomed by some in the advertising community.
Claudine Collins, the press director at MediaCom, says his magazine background is a plus. "Magazines are a huge part of Emap's portfolio and it's important they are represented," she says.
Others are less convinced. One agency source asserts: "This is very left of field. I'm sure the reason it came about was because Tony Wheble turned the job down."
The fact that Emap took five months to appoint someone who was sitting under its nose suggests Rich was not the "blindingly obvious" choice David Davies, Grazia's managing director and a former colleague of Rich, claims he is.
But, regardless of what people feel about the appointment, Rich now faces a big job - bigger than the one King left behind. As well as heading Emap Advertising (commanding £140 million of revenue) Rich will help run Emap Elan, alongside its managing director, Dawn Bebe, and Davies. He will also continue as the managing director at Performance.
The shifting of Elan responsibilities from Paul Keenan, the chief executive of Emap Consumer Media, to Rich means decisions can be taken more quickly. Davies says: "Now that Paul is on the main board he's looking to delegate and, with Elan doing so well, it was an easy one to hand over."
How much time this will leave Rich to oversee Emap Advertising is open to question. But Rich is undaunted by the breadth of his new role. "There are a lot of people with a multifunctioned role at Emap. It's about the quality of your managers. You have to be clear that you lead and they manage and then you don't end up doing other people's jobs," he says.
Rich will have plenty of support in the shape of managers such as Karen Stacey, the broadcast sales director, and Carrie Barker, who heads the magazine division. Jane Kelsey runs cross-media sales. But Stacey and Barker are relatively new in their roles, so what exactly will Rich do?
"It's a nice job. There is not much work to do now. It's more about the strategy and vision for Emap Advertising in three years' time," Davies says.
And it sounds as if King had already done much of the hard work. "It's an evolution of what Dave began five years ago," Rich says. "I want best-in-class magazine and broadcast selling and to accelerate cross-media. We have a range of media other media owners would die for and we need to utilise this. I also want to simplify cross-media for the buyer."
Keenan is seriously behind building cross-media revenues. "It turns people on," he says, dismissing the rumour that radio may be removed from the Emap Advertising offering.
After his multiplatform experience at Performance, Rich thinks he's ready for the advertising challenge. He concedes there are tough market conditions in some areas, but believes Emap still has the edge over its magazine and radio competition. Emap's recent statement for the year ending 31 March indicates UK magazine revenue rose by 4 per cent but radio revenues rose by just 2 per cent.
Despite this, Ian Tournes, the press director at Starcom Mediavest, says: "Emap is one of the best offerings, if not the best, out there."
With media agency confidence like this and a strong team already in place, it looks as if there will be plenty of time for Rich to develop his vision.
And to get a little more creative about staff rewards.
Lives: Great Sampford (Essex)
Family: Wife, Liza; four children, Louis, 14, Toby, ten, Harry, eight,
Most treasured possession: CD collection and a picture of the children
on the beach in Sydney that my wife had taken for my 40th birthday
Describe yourself in three words: Laid-back, anally retentive, happy
(sorry, that's five)</Paragraph[xyz]Interests outside work: West Ham season ticket-holder, ski-ing, squash,
tennis, five-a-side football, music
All-time favourite book: I got this special one that lists every player
who ever played for West Ham since the War