Chris Ingram might have cheesed a few people off along the way (impossible not to in 40 years), but as the business bid him adieu last week he was afforded godly status.
In case you've been living down a hole for the past few years (or working in a creative department), here's why Ingram deserves such applause: Ingram is the only UK media man to launch his own media independent, grow it into a fully fledged international business, expand into a broader communications offering and sell out to WPP, netting a personal fortune of £64m.
But more importantly, in a media industry characterised at the top by earn-outers and the over-paid/under-enthused, Ingram managed to retain a genuine thirst for the communications craft. For a quiet, perhaps shy and -- to the casual observer -- rather grey man, he injected a passion and excitement into this business that is harder and harder to find.
OK, actually I can't resist a couple of spikes about CIA's London office while I'm here. Never have I heard so much wisdom spoken under the roof of one agency, but never have I seen an agency so resolutely fail to deliver on its promise. CIA London has been a mess for many years, probably since Ingram shifted his own focus internationally.
Also, I've never known an agency to make so many duff senior (and expensive) hiring decisions, though, ironically, things felt a lot more stable in the months just before the takeover battle. And Ingram's boldest pre-sale manoeuvre -- Tempus Partners, which aimed to offer clients everything from upstream marketing thinking to media execution and even management of the creative process -- was brilliant, but quickly buried under David Wheldon's steerage and is now anomalous within WPP.
For the full story read our interview with Ingram this week (see right). The headline for the feature, "Media's silver medallist", is not only deeply ironic, it's also a perfect reflection of the psychology that has driven Ingram ever-onwards. That Ingram should see Tempus, ultimately, as an also-ran is to deny the profound effect he had on the development of the business. Yet if he had been the sort of man happy to settle for second best (and £64m) he would never have achieved so much.
For grasping the opportunity to launch media buying as a standalone business, for acknowledging the need for international media account management and an international network of like-minded media agencies, for embracing upstream thinking before communications-neutral planning became a cliche on every creds presentation in town, and for creating a business which grew into an empire with a £432m price tag, Chris Ingram deserves a gold.
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