Media Headliner: ZenithOptimedia's intellectual with ROI mission

Despite a sometimes aggressive approach, Glaswegian Gerry Boyle is a strategist who makes things happen.

The landlord of The Dudley Arms in Paddington could be forgiven for panicking. This week, ZenithOptimedia left its nearby offices after 18 years, taking with it thousands of pounds in beer revenue to its new offices in Fitzrovia.

So, while the Dudley's management will be hoping that similarly thirsty tenants take over the lease on ZenithOptimedia's old building, the agency has its own issues to contend with. The move coincides with a changing of the guard at ZenithOptimedia, with Antony Young, its chief executive of three years, moving to New York as the managing director of Optimedia.

Young has been replaced by Gerry Boyle, the agency's managing director since October 2003.

The news will have come as little surprise to anyone at the agency - Boyle has been groomed for the role and recently returned from a residential management course designed to prepare him. The only surprise, some say, is Young's destination - many had tipped him for the vacant ZenithOptimedia Europe chief executive role, previously held by the worldwide chief executive, Steve King.

However, the talk is that Young's move to New York will be beneficial to Boyle: that he'll have real freedom to operate without his old boss lurking around every corner. Boyle reports directly to King, who says: "I'm delighted about this change. I've been in discussions with Antony for some time about his next role and the transition should be relatively easy as I've also known for some time that Gerry is the natural successor. His reputation is second to none - both with clients and with the staff and key management at ZenithOptimedia."

Boyle inherits an agency in relatively good shape from Young, who arrived from his Zenith post in Asia to inherit a business still reeling from the Zenith merger with Optimedia. Young introduced the "ROI agency" repositioning and revamped his senior management team following the departure of several senior directors such as Greg Turzynski, Tim Greatrex and Tom George.

He was handed a modernising brief and gave the agency a direction and an identity. Four of the agency's top six clients were won in the past three years (including L'Oreal and O2) and one-third of revenues now come from non-traditional media planning and buying. Units such as Zed Media and Equinox are thriving. There have been some client losses - such as Muller and Carlsberg last year - but Young's account closes in credit.

And, importantly, he leaves a more balanced management team with Boyle, the vice-chairman Derek Morris, and the creative director Lucy Banks, supplying the planning power to complement the agency's buying acumen.

So what is Boyle's challenge following Young's departure? It sounds like more of the same but with the infusion of a more open passion and energy.

"We've got to learn to change and adapt more quickly," Boyle says. While Young came across as a relentless, but relatively quiet force, Boyle is more outgoing.

He says: "We've been on a journey over the past three years with developing the ROI proposition and developing new services. A lot of focus has also been given to the planning proposition, so there will be more of that to come. We need to innovate constantly and diversify, while keeping a close eye on the core competency of media planning and buying."

Boyle, who has been at Zenith for close to eight years, is a driven, ambitious Glaswegian. He is relatively young, turning 35 this week. But Young believes that the role will suit Boyle: "Gerry is an inspirational guy and when you're trying to galvanise 350 people, you want him at the front. He's also very much somebody who gets things done. He's known for being a thinker and a strategist, but he's very able to make things happen. He's also fearless and 150 per cent passionate about the business. He's infectious, people like him a lot and want to follow him."

George, the managing director of Mediaedge:cia and a former colleague of Boyle, says: "Gerry is one of the best thinkers I've worked with and is very down to earth. He can be very aggressive at times, but that's probably down to that Glaswegian nature. He's a really good leader, but the only thing he has to look out for is that he is one of the great thinkers and he shouldn't get too sidetracked away from not practising media."

Boyle argues this won't happen: "I've sounded out people and it seems that the great thing about being a chief executive is you can be involved in the areas you want. I believe the business is about people, ideas and clients and I want to be very involved with all three."

Colleagues say the most significant thing about Boyle is that he emerged from a modern, planning background via Leo Burnett and Michaelides & Bednash.

As one puts it: "He's got a 21st-century view of what a media agency should do. He's a one-discipline person who was attracted to media because of the intellectual challenge."

Boyle is looking forward to building a management partnership with Morris, which he claims will be central to the agency going forward. As for his management style, Boyle says: "I try to be inclusive. My aim is to provide people with inspiration and to push them."

Colleagues sharing a farewell drink to Paddington in the Dudley Arms last week can testify to this.

- Simon Marquis, page 14

Age: 35
Lives: Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
Family: Wife, Caroline, children Caitlin and Rory
Most treasured possession: Not really possessions, but my children are
my most treasured
Interests outside work: Kids take up most time outside work these days
Last book read: The Insider. The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade
by Piers Morgan
Favourite ad campaign: O2's launch was superb
Favourite place for a quiet moment: The Royal Standard, Beaconsfield


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