Last week, New ITV finalised its war cabinet, storming one of its
biggest advertisers and most visible critics - Procter & Gamble - to
appoint John Hardie, the managing director for Europe of P&G’s cosmetics
division, to be its marketing and commercial director.
ITV could hardly have chosen a more fitting voice than Hardie through
which to speak to its customers. As a P&G man, his understanding of
consumer targeting should be formidable, and as an advertiser, his
empathy towards the ad community is obvious.
Nevertheless, few in the advertising industry know this 35-year-old Scot
who graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in English and
Philosophy, joined P&G as a brand manager 14 years ago and whose
marketing achievements include the successful relaunch of Bold, tripling
the Cover Girl business in the UK and becoming P&G’s youngest general
manager in 1994 when he took charge of the German-based Ellen Betrix
Although Hardie would not talk about his plans for ITV, he spoke to
Campaign about being the man behind the news.
Did you always want to work in marketing?
JH Until my last year at university, I’d never even heard of
Faced with the impending prospect of life without grant cheques,
’gainful employment’ presented itself as a newly attractive concept. Not
being exactly sure what an English and Philosophy graduate was supposed
to do after university, I took part in Procter & Gamble’s legendary
Christmas vacation marketing course. It was love at first sight;
infatuation led to a marriage which has lasted 14 years.
My earliest ambition was to be a pilot, a career I’m sure I would have
pursued were it not for my fear of heights.
So what are the attractions of P&G to a would-be marketer?
JH I still reckon P&G is about the best training there is in
I base that on my testimony of the myriad former P&Gers now working in
other companies, ranging from fmcg, retailers, advertising agencies and
consultancies. Without exception they rate P&G all the more highly
having worked in what P&G calls ’the world outside’. I know people in
positions in companies, successful in new careers who, ten to 15 years
after leaving P&G, say they still call upon their experiences as young
brand managers in their senior management roles today.
What do you consider to be your main strengths as a marketer?
JH Developing winning strategies and then ruthlessly executing them.
What would you say has been your most valuable lesson learned from your
time at P&G?
JH It takes the same effort to make big changes as it does to make a
small change - and it is generally better to do the former.
How has your experience at P&G prepared you for your new job?
JH P&G imbues its people with the desire to be the biggest player in any
market it does business in. The only measure by which to assess
marketing activity is market results, normally market share. We know
that the key to success is always, for us, successful brands. Coming to
ITV, I don’t want to simply build ’brand values’ as an end in itself - I
want to build audience share by realising ITV’s potential as a
How different is fmcg marketing from the marketing of other types of
product, specifically media brands?
JH Give me a few months and I’ll give you a better answer.
You’ve described yourself as having a passionate interest in ’the little
square box’. Why are you so passionate about television?
JH Television can be an incredible shared experience, whether it’s 16
million people watching Coronation Street, or sharing the experience of
intense national events from the Coronation to the funeral of Diana, or
watching Scotland step up to win the 1998 World Cup. The question isn’t
why would someone be passionate about television, rather it’s how you
could not be passionate about it. This is something affecting millions
around the world, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It’s live and
immediate and, at its best, it’s enthralling.
Does TV play a big part in your life as a consumer and what are your
JH Well, yes, I really do watch it. One of my favourite quotes comes
from the film, the Manchurian Candidate: ’The world is divided into two
groups of people: those who walk into a room and switch the television
on; and those who walk into a room and switch the television off.’ I am
most definitely in the first camp.
As for favourites, I think Prime Suspect stands out in recent years as
classic television. More recently, I grudgingly admit to Friends and
What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing TV as an
advertising medium as we go into the next century?
JH Maintaining advertising funded television and its historically high
levels for the good of viewers and advertisers. There is complete
congruency of interest here.
The latest figures from the Advertising Association, with TV growth
slowing to just 1.5 per cent, suggest a ’cooling in advertisers’
enthusiasm for TV’, according to the Incorporated Society of British
Advertisers. Would you agree?
JH I’d like to hear more from advertisers on that question.
From your perspective as a major client of ITV, what is your view of
ITV’s approach to its advertisers?
JH A tad divided.
What attracted you to the ITV job?
JH The opportunity to use my skills for something I am good at
(marketing) in an area that I am interested in (TV). It’s about
challenge and change.
How important do you think ITV is going to be to advertisers as more
channels appear and the opportunities for reaching mass audiences
JH TV will always be extremely important, I believe the medium is still
the most effective selling tool. Nothing in my mind beats 30 seconds of
moving pictures and sound - except perhaps 60 seconds. The key is
maintaining the incredible impact in reach. The future is a more
competitive place, but I believe that with the determination of ITV and
advertisers we can and will ensure that TV retains its pre-eminence as
the country’s most effective selling tool.
Would you describe yourself as ambitious?
And when you’re not being a marketer, how do you spend your time?
JH Movies, restaurants, friends, golf, music - and, most of all, TV.
What’s your favourite ad?
JH Levi’s ’laundrette’ always springs to mind.
Media Forum, p20.