NEWSMAKER/SIMON MARQUIS: Media man returns to roots after publishing stint - Simon Marquis’s move to Zenith Media is a surprise U-turn, Anna Griffiths says

It’s strange that Simon Marquis is about to become managing director of the largest media independent, Zenith Media UK (Campaign, last week).

It’s strange that Simon Marquis is about to become managing

director of the largest media independent, Zenith Media UK (Campaign,

last week).

After all, this is a man who got on his soap-box in the early ’90s

trying to organise a full-service lobby group to argue the case against

the growing band of independent media agencies.

Marquis should be a politician. He’s adept at making U-turns with grace,

as proved by his persuasive reasoning for joining a media independent,

and for returning to a world on which he had turned his back when he

took the post of editorial director on Haymarket’s Marketing magazine in


Now he’s decided it is time to be ’bold’ again, and he has accepted a

job many would think twice about.

He joins an agency which has had a lacklustre new-business record and

has failed to shrug off its buying-shop image. It is also an entity that

could radically change if Zenith’s talks with Aegis progress into a


Graham Duff, chief executive of Zenith and Marquis’s boss, explains the

challenge: ’We’ve got a good market position, but it’s time to move


Simon will give it a different direction. Last year was one of

consolidation.’ Marquis already has a pretty clear idea of what he needs

to do with Zenith.

’There have got to be products, initiatives and innovations - there’s

been something of a gap there. Other brands have been launched, such as

Zenith Direct and Zebra, and they need to do more of these things.’

For Marquis, there is a whiff of fate about his new job. ’Of course,

it’s very difficult to move into a place where the seats were until

relatively recently occupied by Ray Morgan, Derek Southon and Christine

Walker, all of whom were colleagues in my first job and are friends. In

a way, that adds piquancy to the whole thing. It will be interesting to

get in there and try to answer the questions being raised about the

Zenith brand at the moment.’

Despite being absent from the media game since 1992, when he abruptly

left his position as managing director of full-service agency, Burkitt

Weinreich Bryant, following a falling out with the agency’s chairman,

Hugh Burkitt, Marquis is ready to plunge in again. He has no regrets

about his six-year gap. ’All my career up to a point was in media and


Moving over to Haymarket was a flier - one that I have never regretted

because it was a completely different thing to do.’

He argues he has never stepped away from the agency world, but merely

acted as an observer. This, he says, has given him an objectivity which

is often lacking. ’There may be scepticism - why has this character been

given the job? But I can bring a lateral approach to what is very much a

questioning role.’

Former colleagues agree that Marquis is uniquely qualified to do the

Zenith job. Richard Eyre, chief executive of ITV who worked with Marquis

when they were at Benton & Bowles in the 70s, says: ’At Haymarket, he’s

been in touch with the industry, regularly appraising and commenting on

it. Simon is very good at thinking his way through a problem and coming

up with a strategic response.’

Such is Marquis’s standing that there was some uncertainty in the

industry about whether his position was above or below that of Duff. But

though the two are chalk and cheese, there is mutual respect and signs

that the pairing will be more fruitful than Marquis’s relationship with


Duff says: ’Simon has a broad and different range of experience. I see

him helping me to develop ideas and opportunities.’

Marquis comments: ’Graham is a thoughtful person. We’ve spotted in each

other a partnership.’

Although many greeted news of Marquis’s appointment with surprise, his

name has been on media industry lips for some time. It came up when

MindShare was looking for a managing director, and when ITV was seeking

a marketing director. So, has he been desperate to leave the publishing

game? ’I was never anxiously sifting other opportunities,’ Marquis says.

’One or two things did come my way in the time that I was at Haymarket,

but I brushed them away because I wanted to give this job a crack.’

But times have changed, and Marquis says that at the age of 44 he’s

ready to take on a demanding post. ’It’s a business I know a lot about,

if not the current goings-on. Plunging back into it is to be relished

rather than avoided.’

Marquis is a popular figure and even Burkitt can’t be pushed to be too

critical. ’He has a fine, clear, logical mind. He’s very charming and

likeable with a feminine side .’

Still, Marquis has been known lose his temper, if only when pushed.

Dominic Proctor, chairman of MindShare, who reported to Marquis when he

was media manager at Allen Brady Marsh, remembers a ’violent dressing

down when a load of us came back from lunch very drunk’. He expands:

’Simon was absolutely furious. The only other time I’ve heard him shout

is at golf caddies.’

Golf is just one of Marquis’s hobbies. If there is a blank white

tablecloth, and he’s had a few glasses of wine, you can catch him

drawing at the table.

True to his character, the picture is always more flattering than the

subject. Though he’s a trustee of the RSPB, Marquis is adamant he’s not

an anorak. Married to headhunter Nicky Horner, with two-step daughters

and a three-and-a-half year old son, he insists his main focus is his

family. ’That’s why you do it all,’ he says philosophically.