My Media Week: Jon O'Donnell, ESI Commercial

Jon O'Donnell, the managing director at ESI Commercial, talks us through a typical media week, which on this occasion includes discussing the importance of correctly shaped bacon with the chief of Blue 449, the Campaign A List bash and dancing to Balearic beats with industry big shots.

Jon O'Donnell: the managing director at ESI Commercial
Jon O'Donnell: the managing director at ESI Commercial


The week always starts with the senior leadership team briefing, where we discuss how we're doing both in performance (which is rather well currently) as well as our people. We talk about ways we can improve the business, along with the lives and fortunes of the team. Christmas is coming so lots of fun stuff is being tabled.

I then have a meeting with Evening Standard editor, Sarah Sands, where among other things we discuss how delighted she is to have so many advertising wraps recently. At least this is how I recall it.

This is followed by a catch up with Group Interim MD Manish Malhotra on the broader P&L, along with progress on key strategic imperatives such as our events business ESI Live. We also touch on how delighted he is with the commercial department’s expenses. At least this is how I recall it...


Meeting with ESI Live to discuss progress and investment on key events such as London Food Month, due to land next June. Diversification of revenues is key to ESI strategy and so having a proprietor willing to invest in such projects is a huge asset to the business.

The afternoon sees me off to Maxus with several members of the ESI team. We are taking our hugely successful House of ESI interactive product showcase on the road and I'm delighted to see such an engaged audience hearing about our transformational journey.


The severe morning cold weather means I am currently eschewing my "rigorous" Ironman training schedule in favour of a warm duvet, and of course, the opportunity to spend some morning time with my wife Jacque and our five-year-old daughter Daisy.

Once in the office, the morning is spent fine tuning a presentation I am delivering next week to the IAB on the Future of Traditional Media. Since the Independent went digital-only its success has been well documented and the interest surrounding its journey is sky high.

I enjoy a quick Greek salad al desko and then I’m off to meet Simon Davis, CEO of Blue 449, prior to our House of ESI roadshow presentation. This is always an interesting meeting as we are both a client and a vendor, but the conversations are always rich, varied and productive whichever hat is being worn.

Today we discuss alternative business models, the merits of free versus paid-for, client pitches that lead to near death experiences, and agree that bacon should NEVER be triangularly shaped. We then head back for the presentation.

The session goes well and we leave with stacks of live conversations to follow up. Prior to the House, people’s perception of ESI was that we were largely a London-centric, one-product, print business.

The House sets that straight, re-setting us as a fully national media company with a wide breadth of multi-platform capabilities. The story resonates well and is receiving warm plaudits. Of course the real work starts now with actions.

Tonight is the Campaign A List party at the Century Club, which as ever is packed with amazingly talented people, and always good to catch up with so many faces – too many to name check.

Then it’s off upstairs to the Newsworks Planning Awards. I'm delighted to discover that 7 Stars have won an award for their work on McArthur Glen which was in partnership with ESI Media. I'm equally delighted that December 19 won an award too. It’s extremely warming to see these guys do well. They work incredibly hard, are wonderful people and they celebrate like they've won the FA Cup. Good for them.

Back to the office to pick the car up and off home after a long day. Luckily Joan Bakewell is on Radio 4 talking about preparing for death. Phew.


Up and on the treadmill at 5.30am with a decent paced run watching Sky News. I’m getting the train this morning which gives me time to read last night’s Evening Standard (and I’m not alone in doing this…) and catch up on some emails.

At 9.30 I’m at MEC’s swanky offices on the Southbank meeting CEO Jason Dormieux. We have a really good, wide ranging conversation about many industry challenges and seemingly solve many of them there and then.

His passion and positivity for the business is infectious, and well placed given the success they've had this year.

This evening we have gathered together some of the industry's leading CEO's and strategic thinkers to enjoy Pete Tong and his Ibiza Orchestra. Hands were clapped, skies were punched and all "got the love" as the 76-year-old Candi Staton took to the stage.

After a quick breakdancing competition at the after party I leave with Mrs O at around 1am for the long journey home, the party still going strong. Layo and Bushwacka is playing as we leave bringing back many fond memories of the Balearics…

I am in my 20’s again…


6am. I am very much back in my 40’s.

Urgh…feeling every second of my 44 years. Luckily all I have is an intense multi region conference call with our Group Interim MD, Digital MD and an innovation consultancy at 9am to discuss digital strategy. Bugger.

Luckily bacon, coffee and years of experience pull me back to match fitness. It's difficult not to be excited though when you're discussing the future road map for the business. We have a bit of a history for taking bold crazy moves so this kind of thinking is what gets us going every day.

Off to a charity lunch for the Anderson Foundation that supports autistic children. The event is packed with people from all sectors and I am, to my knowledge, the only media person here.

It's a stark reminder of the bubble we often live in and base decisions on. If this year has taught us anything it is that there is a world outside Charlotte Street not captured by data nor buried in social media.

As the event slowly moves from dessert to disco we make our excuses and leave. Last night still lingers and we have the in-laws down so probably best we at least say hello.

The week draws to a close. Tomorrow is the wedding of our chief trading officer, which I am thoroughly looking forward to (after 13 hours sleep).

The lowdown

Age: 44
Favourite media: Newsbrands obviously, but I do like a bit of Sky Atlantic.
My biggest inspiration: Tyrion Lannister
Dream job: Games show host
Not a lot of people know this about me... Based on my race times at school I was selected to represent the county for Cross Country. My school had neglected to tell them that my times were based on the shorter asthmatic route, which became evident as I wheezed home in last place.


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