It would be quite unfair to write off WPP stalwart David Muir as just another member of the growing “Scottish mafia” surrounding Gordon Brown. It was announced last week that he was leaving WPP subsidiary The Channel to join Gordon Brown’s government, as an adjutant to fellow Scotsman Stephen Carter, Brown’s key adviser and also a former adman, in the newly-created role of director of political strategy.
But those who know Muir say that, as an “ardent activist” and a card-carrying member of the Labour Party, it is no surprise that he has decided to jump into politics and “make a difference”. As the chief executive of The Channel, which he joined in 2005, Muir has been responsible for bringing together media and research skills for WPP companies.
“Hardly exciting stuff,” says one observer, who adds that, though Muir was being groomed to be part of WPP’s corporate future, “he was itching to do something to make a real difference”.
The charming Muir has always kept close contacts with his political mates, and was most recently seen helping another fellow Scott, the international development secretary Douglas Alexander, when as the General Elections co-ordinator he was set the task of scouting for an advertising agency. It was Muir who helped Alexander appoint Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon Group to the Labour account.
Dull in comparison
Muir leaves The Channel at the end of March and will report to Carter, the former Ofcom chief, and previously chief executive at WPP-owned JWT. Dubbed the “door-keeper to Number 10”, Carter is understood to have head-hunted Muir to help him build an elections strategy using his research skills from a “media point of view”. And, although Number 10 refuses to give out any details of how these former admen will help transform the Brown Government for the next General Election, reported to be in November, sources say that one of the first things that the duo will be tasked with is to “effectively communicate and engage with people”.
Brown’s coterie of ad folk also includes MT Rainey – one of the founders of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R and founder of the social mentoring site Horsemouth – who fits around Brown’s commitment to social enterprise.
But not even Brown’s strongest critics, including long-standing Tory supporter and Chime Communications chairman Lord Tim Bell, believe that surrounding itself with former admen is really about promoting Brown himself.
For starters, Carter is said to have urged Brown to disappear from the Number 10 early-morning conference calls – perhaps Muir will help the PM spend that time engaging with the public effectively through “new media”.