Media Headliner: From rock bands, five and lads' mags ... to Aegis

Having followed a serious education with a colourful career, David Pullan's latest move has raised eyebrows.

David Pullan has spent most of his adult life creating and building entertainment brands. He pushed rock bands during his early career as a music industry marketer at Deconstruction Records, then entered the world of television at MTV and Channel 5, promoting the lads' mag FHM in markets as diverse as the US and China.

It all sounds like remarkably good fun given the robust nature of his education: the Oxford philosophy degree, a stint at McKinsey as a consultant and an MBA obtained from Harvard - an impressive grounding that Pullan used to land jobs working for brands in areas that he was excited and passionate about.

But has all this fun come to an end now that he has joined the agency group Aegis Media in the serious-sounding role of president of a new initiative called Service Solutions? His task being to lead Aegis' development of an improved product offering for clients: a role right up the alley, you'd have thought, of a former McKinsey man.

Of course, all this is to caricature Pullan's CV somewhat. After all, his last role at his previous employer Emap (he moved from being the custodian of the FHM brand to the strategic marketing and brand development director across all of its consumer brands) essentially involved steering a wider product offering. The only difference being that it was consumer-focused.

He may have maintained a blonde rinse during his MTV days, but Pullan has always managed to impress employers with his ambition and willingness to address complex strategic issues. And there will be plenty of these at Aegis.

Pullan is currently in the US, working on his first task since joining Aegis. It involves the merger of Carat USA with Carat Fusion, the digital unit that has operated as a separate entity. This US merger pretty much sums up the journey Pullan and Nigel Morris, the chief executive of Aegis' digital unit Isobar and the board member with responsibility for Service Solutions, have embarked on, as it involves bringing the group's service offerings more closely together.

Talking to Morris, it's clear he doesn't envisage Pullan poncing around the globe dispensing advice to lesser mortals. He imagines instead the Service Solutions unit will offer a new framework for planning. He says of digital, activation, experiential, sports and entertainment: "The question is how do we bring all these elements together to provide a better and more holistic solution to clients?"

He adds: "What I struggle with is everyone says the consumer is central, that the model of interruption is dead, but then they continue to plan communications in the same way. We have to start looking at the consumer in a completely different way. And drive a different way of planning through the whole business that doesn't interfere with specialisations."

But why was Pullan, whose only experience of agencies is working with them on the client side, the right man for the job? "David is a genuine strategic thinker, and has a unique combination of McKinsey consultancy skills and a real understanding of how media, brands, content and agencies work," Morris says. "He showed us at five (Pullan appointed the Aegis agency Vizeum as his media agency) that he really understands the communications issues agencies face. He's a fantastic team builder as well, and was top of my list from day one."

Pullan left Emap in February when his roving role did not suit a new structure created following the recommendations of management consultants. He talked to Emap about the new post of chief marketing officer, but wasn't enthused because it contained no bottom line, no P&L, responsibility. However, he maintains that the split was amicable, and that he still talks to Emap Consumer Media's chief executive, Paul Keenan.

He says that he thought carefully about his next move: "I had a checklist in my head - I wanted something challenging and quite complex. I was looking for an organisation where a lot of change is occurring and has the appetite to do things differently."

The only thing missing with the Aegis job was the responsibility for running a business that he craves. He says: "That may come with time, there will be lots of opportunities here to work with new businesses and new avenues to explore. I'm confident that if I can deliver value, then there will be more responsibility for me in future."

Before Emap, Pullan was the marketing director at Channel 5 (filling the big shoes left by Jim Hytner). At five, which rebranded under his watch, Pullan was seen as a bright, personable, yet very ambitious operator. Kelly Williams, the sales director at five, says: "Dawn Airey, who employed David, said we've probably only got him for a couple of years on his trajectory upwards. He oversaw the rebrand of five, which was seen here as a huge success, and was then involved in several ongoing strategic projects that really left a mark."

Working on five's multichannel and other strategies could prove valuable experience for the job in hand at Aegis, and Pullan is convinced the move is the right one. He's known Morris for more than a decade, and is familiar with the Aegis culture following the period working with Vizeum. He argues that its "decentralised, entrepreneurial" culture is "very focused on delivery and getting things done".

This should suit Pullan, just so long as Aegis avoids the corporate issues that came to plague Emap.

Age: 39
Lives: Dulwich
Family: Married to Min; two sons (aged six and four), with another due
in October
Interests outside work: Music, travelling, Leeds United (it's a cross I
have to bear)
Most treasured possession: My Sisters of Mercy one-off print that hangs
by the front door - their only music mag cover printed by the
photographer (an eBay find)
Last book you read: Brick Lane by Monica Ali (finally got round to it)
Favourite websites: Facebook (I know, I know), BBC News, b3ta