Media: A moment with Marquis

Next Monday, Andrew Harrison takes up the chief executive's role at the new Radio Centre. It will be quite a challenge.

Harrison will first have to make the new organisation work effectively, combining as it does the old Radio Advertising Bureau with the Commercial Radio Companies Association. It makes good sense for radio to have a single hub to represent the many interests of its broad group of stakeholders, but creating a sense of common purpose will take leadership and focus.

He will also have the daunting task of following in the footsteps of Douglas McArthur, universally respected as the driving force behind the RAB and the architect of its considerable success. McArthur led the RAB from its birth in 1992 until this year, and his legacy is the industry's most effective media marketing organisation - the one all others try to emulate. During that time, radio grew from a support role for advertisers to a mainstream medium.

Many observers, however, look forward to the fresh style and thinking that a change in leadership will bring about. Some say the RAB was running out of ideas. Harrison is making his first move into media having spent his career in fmcg marketing roles at Coca-Cola, Nestle Rowntree and at Muller. Will this non-radio perspective help?

Harrison has a quick mind and an ability to get things done. He understands the advertiser standpoint and is well-networked in the media and agency worlds. He likes media and has an instinct for it and will relish his immersion in a different market sector to that in which he has worked to date. So the non-media background may be an advantage - his predecessor was, after all, an ex-Procter & Gamble marketer.

One of McArthur's greatest skills was listening. He invested a huge amount of his time consulting the industry, taking on board its concerns and demands and using this intelligence to guide the RAB's agenda. Harrison will be well- advised to do the same. Radio is under markedly different ownership from the early 90s, has the massive opportunity of digital radio to promote as well as the explosive growth in internet advertising to contend with. A further leap in radio's share of advertising expenditure, therefore, will be much harder to achieve than the previous one. So he must spend plenty of time with advertisers, agencies and the radio company bosses who are his paymasters and stakeholders.

Harrison will doubtless leap into his new role with great gusto. He'll need it. This is a big job.


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