New set of rules for new business directors

Cold-calling and schmoozing clients in the hope of netting their accounts are standard fayre for agencies’ new business directors. But the job has moved on. No longer is it simply a case of organising the printing and distribution of mailers that lay strong claims to creativity, and delivering returns on investment. Top new business or marketing directors must also have a strategic understanding of their agency, as well as be able to manage perceptions of the business in the outside world.

M&C Saatchi no doubt hopes that it has found these skills in Camilla Tappin, whom it has just poached from Leo Burnett, where she held the same role. Hailed by some as a new business specialist with a “golden touch”, Tappin helped Leo Burnett win seven pitches last year, including the Scottish Widows &£5m advertising account, according to the AAR’s new business performance league table for 2004. She also secured a place on the agency shortlist when Sainsbury’s and Abbey reviewed their advertising accounts earlier this year.

Tappin is one of a number of high-profile new business directors who include DDB London’s Richard Morris, Lowe’s Judy Mitchum, J Walter Thompson’s Peter Cowie and Grey’s Nicola Mendelsohn.

Those who make it into the premier league not only need to lure clients through the door, but are also charged with managing their agency’s business development and growth. AAR advertising director Martin Jones, and a former new business director at JWT, says: “With increased competition, agencies want new business much more than before, and the strategically-minded [new business executives] are the most successful.”

In the past, new business directors may have been instructed by agency chiefs. Now they are expected to generate leads on their own initiative – and not just through standard cold-calling and ensuring databases are up to date. They have to keep abreast of business news and be aware of changes in companies’ strategy and direction.

Haystack Group managing director Suki Thompson says it is those personalities with flair and entrepreneurial spirit who tend to do well because they often have the ability to win over big clients.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty managing director Derek Robson warns that merely employing a networker with a huge address book might not work. “New business is all about driving an agency’s philosophy and culture, which is the reason why we never appoint an outsider to the role.” When Mendelsohn left BBH for Grey, she was replaced by another BBH lifer, Richard Exxon, who helped the agency win the &£28m Woolworths account.

Robson believes that a successful new business person must primarily manage the day-to-day administration of the department while cultivating a new business culture involving all agency staff.

Whether they get involved in setting out development and growth opportunities for the agency tends to depend on the size of the business, claims Robson. “The bigger the agency, the more the possibility of client conflict. In such cases new business has to be very well-targeted, ensuring the involvement of the entire management team.”

Chairman of Agency Assessments International David Whethey says the two most successful new business people are WPP Group’s Sir Martin Sorrell and Publicis Groupe’s Maurice Lévy. They not only define the new business strategies of their various networks, but are prepared to pull up their sleeves and help where needed in getting in the business.

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