Media Headliner: Starcom's Ian Tournes moves to the other side

Is joining a media owner the right move for the agency's head of press, or is it a case of better the devil you know?

Media owners seem to be taking Charles Wesley's famous line "Why should the Devil have all the best tunes?" to heart.

There is major talent to plunder at media agencies and they're going out and taking it.

The latest smash-and-grab from a media agency has seen Ian Tournes, the press director at Starcom Mediavest, snatched to become the group trading director at IPC Media.

IPC's thinking on this one is clear - in an age of agency consolidation into fewer, but more powerful, buying points, it wants to place greater emphasis on its relationships with these buying points.

The process is already well under way following the appointment of Caroline McDevitt as the group advertisement director in May 2005. McDevitt was promoted to managing director of IPC Advertising in January and felt she needed more resource at her disposal.

For Tournes, a relatively young man with a young family, it's easy to see why he fancies a new challenge. The declining fortunes of the national press and the glass ceiling for promotion within media agencies may be factors in his decision to move on but, primarily, he says, the job was too good to turn down: "It was a fantastic offer - IPC is the largest magazine publisher ... with new launches across the marketplace, magazines are the dynamic medium of the moment and IPC has led that launch agenda."

Tournes, who has been Starcom Mediavest's head of press for the past three years (focusing mainly on its key press account, BT), is entertaining company, with a story and a theory on everything. He's generally pretty popular but has managed to rub some in the industry up the wrong way; not surprising, perhaps, in a trading role that sometimes calls for an abrasive approach. One sales director says: "He can be a bit arrogant - that's his problem; he hasn't made many friends in the industry, so why hire someone like that for this role?"

Supporters disagree, however. Steve Goodman, the managing director for print trading at Group M, worked with Tournes when Tournes was an associate director at MediaCom running the COI press business.

He says: "Ian's an excellent negotiator while still being extremely amicable and popular in the industry. Moving to a media owner won't faze him. Ian's very adaptable. When he joined MediaCom he hit the ground running. Moving from one agency to another can be difficult because of the cultural differences but he had a grasp of things very quickly."

David Vokes, a sales executive at Mirror Group Newspapers, agrees: "Ian's a true gent of advertising and, from a professional point of view, his ability to understand all sides - including the client and media owner - allows him to create strong advertising solutions."

Vokes adds that Tournes' French ancestry is reflected in his character: "He has a mix of French joie de vivre and English pragmatism. He'll bring fresh thinking to IPC. He's a big relationship man and believes in people he can trust."

Tournes also garners praise for his management style. One former colleague says that he is strong at nurturing new talent: "He is absolutely brilliant at motivating his team and building them up. It's so important in this industry to push staff up the ladder and Ian has always done this. It's a great skill for anyone to have and he was never threatened by growing profiles - in fact, he loved it. He's a great leader in a team - if you work for Ian you are in a good place, I think."

At IPC, Tournes will take a seat on the IPC Advertising board and have a remit that covers all of its titles. In some ways, the publisher has a relatively devolved structure - with each division having its own ad directors and sales teams. So is the appointment of Tournes as a central resource recognition from IPC that it has neglected some agency relationships? Not really, Goodman says: "IPC has actually built tremendous relationships with agencies. This is about building on that, rather than saying what's been done before has been wrong."

But is Tournes the right man to deliver? Obviously McDevitt believes so. She says: "My view was that to understand agencies better we had to poach somebody from their side to build on an already good heritage of relationships with agencies. Ian fulfilled the brief - he's still a young and thrusting devil but he's been around for a while and is very experienced. He understands how things have changed on the agency side."

And observers at agencies agree that Tournes can do a good job. Charlie Varley, the planning director at MediaVest Manchester, says: "Tournes will be a good force at IPC and has the inside track on the rest of the magazine sector. It will be good for Caroline - she hasn't got time to do it all."

Varley argues that a key task for McDevitt and Tournes will be to leverage IPC's power in the market. He concludes: "Caroline's appointment as managing director should help IPC leverage its assets. There has been a sense that when you're talking to Emap there's a broad resource base but, traditionally, IPC can be more parochial in discussing specific brands."

McDevitt believes IPC is instigating a major cultural shift with the range of talent it is bringing in from outside. The devilish Tournes will be expected to make an impact when he arrives in June.

THE LOWDOWN Age: 35 Lives: South-East London Family: Wife Sarah; children Ella, Mia and Oliver Most treasured possession: See above Interests outside work: My three children are my interest outside of work! But rugby, cricket and golf when given the opportunity Last book you read: Kiss Cub by Catherine Anholt. Read repeatedly to my brood as my last job of the day Best advice you've been given: You have two ears, two eyes and one mouth, so look and listen twice as much as you speak