PERSPECTIVE: Legendary charm of Bishop will give new dimension to COI job

Naturally, we wanted to keep the lid on this week's lead story about the new chief executive of COI Communications until publication, but it's a great shame that I couldn't send an e-mail round a few contacts saying: "Remind me what I'm supposed to think about Alan Bishop." For I know that my computer would have practically levitated with the colourful responses.

Sometimes journalists have to strain to make our subjects sound interesting, but in Bishop's case, toning down is the challenge. In fact, it is essential.

The problem is that many people admire "Bish", as he's known, for his intelligence and professional qualities, but what they all bang on about is his prodigious appetite for the opposite sex during his early days at Saatchi & Saatchi in the 80s. Of particular note was his legendary working of the Carpenter's pub on Friday nights and his "strike rate" theory of attracting women. Indeed, Bishop once summed this up for Campaign. "I ask all of them. You'd be surprised how many say yes." A consummate account man, he put his success down to old-fashioned good manners. "I always ask politely and with great respect," he said.

Apart from noting that Bishop is blessed with more than his fair share of testosterone, I must also outline the milestones in his career. They include running the prestigious Cadbury and Colmans accounts at Foote Cone & Belding, running Procter & Gamble, Anchor Foods, Mars, Visa and Burger King at Charlotte Street and engineering a massive restructuring programme at Saatchis' North American operation in his first stint in New York.

And the disappointments? Losing out on the London managing director job in 1993 to Nick Hurrell and Moray Maclennan and, on his second stint in New York, being sidelined into an international new-business role until his departure.

In many ways, Bishop's appointment says as much about the nature of advertising as it does about COI. It provides ultimate proof that middle-aged, highly paid advertising men have a limited lifespan. Newer, younger, hungrier people are clamouring for the jobs that once would have taken them gently towards retirement. What they can do, as in this case, is to take their experience as creative thinkers, administrators and strategists into the public sector where those qualities are required and appreciated.

Had advertising not forced him out, I wonder if Bishop would have chosen the COI job? Part client, part agency, miserable perks, governed by the short-term nature of politics, answering to the whims and agendas of ministers and policy makers and all for a measly salary of £120,000 a year - it's about as far from the top echelons of advertising as you can imagine.

Whatever his motivation, Bishop will need every ounce of his legendary charm to make it work.


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