Opinion: Perspective - Where is the next generation of media leaders

Timing is everything. Just as Campaign's A List of the industry's elite lands on desks, there's a typical end-of-year career musical chairs.

First, Robert Campbell succumbs to a combination of corporate ennui (perfectly understandable when faced with the prospect of McCann Europe) and itchy (millionaire's) feet. Then Saatchi & Saatchi ends the year with a double coup, hiring Nokia's Chris Chalk and Diageo's procurement poster boy Adam Kirby.

Then there's Toby Hoare (page 16) cracking his knuckles elegantly at JWT and Nick Lawson doing the same, though undoubtedly rather less elegantly, at MediaCom ( page 9). And we're on tenter-hooks as I write, to find out who the new chief executive of Starcom Motive is. A week of tying up loose ends and laying fresh foundations for the 2006 fight, then.

But flicking through this year's A List, it's interesting to note how many of last year's industry stalwarts have ended 2005 out of their job and out of the List.

Those whose career took an unfortunate turn before the deadline for entry into our List have been mercilessly dropped from this year's publication; those whose P45 arrived after the deadline have scraped in under somewhat false pretences. But nowhere is this executive exodus more noticeable than among the industry's senior media executives. Graham Duff, Mick Desmond, Mark Cranmer, Mark Howe, David Mansfield: there has been something of a generational shift taking place over the past 12 months, with a whole peer group looking decidedly insecure as their numbers have dwindled.

So why the exits? For some, wealth and wisdom have furnished them with the ability to think "bugger it ... this job ain't worth the pain". For others, their wealth has outweighed their wisdom and revenue-strapped employers have finally acknowledged that far too many senior suits in this business are paid more than they're worth (or at least they're being paid a lot more than someone younger and good enough). And some just seem to have run out of luck.

No-one would deny that this roll-call of names represents some serious talent, without which the industry would be poorer. But there's also something rather healthy about the prospect of a generational shift, making room for new talent with fresh ideas, untapped energy and a little less weary cynicism.

Yet, what the executive departures have exposed is a lack of convincing management talent waiting in the wings. The next generation is far from easy to identify, not least because so few have the sort of big personalities that made their predecessors so famous.

So it's not hard to imagine that this year's P45-ers will be back in 2006, still defining the industry, though perhaps accepting a more modest pay cheque in return for doing so.

In the meantime, some serious thought needs to go into quite what we should be looking for in tomorrow's A Listers if the industry is to weather the inevitable generational shift when it does come and emerge with a new generation of inspiring and energetic leaders. Right now it's far from obvious who they will be.

Talking of media departures, Ralph Bernard has been busy since unseating David Mansfield at GCap. Last week's announcement that he will be slashing ad breaks on the newly named Capital Radio stations is either incredibly brave and visionary or a ridiculous gamble (page 8).

It is certainly hard to see how the numbers stack up (but then that's hardly a new problem for Capital: the company has a history of paying mediocre talent eye-watering salaries).

Given the still-sorry state of radio advertising creativity, fewer ads will be a welcome relief for Capital's listener and advertiser customers.

But making up the revenue shortfall will be a mammoth task. Expect a takeover bid for GCap, and yet more instability in the radio market.


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