Media: A Moment with Marquis

Just remember, someone, somewhere, is fucking up on your behalf." This more or less summed up the management philosophy of my first boss, Derrick Southon, and, horrible though it sounds, it seemed quite often to be the case. Do it yourself, he reckoned, it will save time and effort in the end.

A less cynical alternative was put to me by Tim Wootton when he was the non-executive chairman of Zenith.

"Trust the young people, they'll never let you down," he said.

Having just judged the presentations by twentysomething media planners on a recent Media Circle course, I warm to the Wootton view rather than the Southon one.

Without exception, the presentations were delivered with confidence and elan, had been put together carefully and intelligently, and were imaginative to an extent that made me ashamed of the bog-standard solutions we came up with when I was in short trousers.

As there is now so much concern aired about the quality of people advertising and media can attract, I found this very heartening. Not every smart graduate can be going into management consultancies and private equity. Not everyone is lured to City law firms by colossal starting salaries and student debt pay-offs, however tempting that must be when you are 21 and broke.

At the same time, our industry cannot afford to be complacent about its recruits and the experience they have in the first years of work. To attract its fair share of top grads, our business must ensure we give them challenging, involving things to do and repay their career choice with the best grounding we can offer. WPP runs an excellent programme for its recruits, but is the industry as a whole doing enough?

Training is one of those budget items that looks as if it will never produce a return. You pour money into sending your trainees on courses only to receive their resignations weeks later - the brightest snaffled by your eagle-eyed competitors.

But there isn't an alternative, is there? However Southon-ish you may feel, be generous. Trust your bright young people to get it right and not foul up, manage them with interest, invest heavily in their future, even when times are tough.

I was delighted to read that Gerry Boyle had been promoted to chief executive of ZenithOptimedia. I recruited him as the head of planning when he was a stripling of 28. He's still only 35, but still the best example I know of giving someone with brains and drive their head, even though their birth certificate says you shouldn't.

- Simon Marquis is the chairman of the National Readership Survey and the former chairman of ZenithOptimedia.


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