How Chris Ward got ahead

“The best bit about any first job is that you think that you can conquer the world!”

Name: Chris Ward
Company: Personal
Job title: Managing partner

What made you want to get into brands/advertising/media/marketing? I was young and impressionable, it was 80s Thatcherite Britain, consumerism was cool and advertising and marketing was the latest phenomenon.

How did you get into the industry (including relevant qualifications and professional training)?I once worked in media sales which was a great training ground. I was however, still on the outskirts of the industry blissfully unaware of the ‘line’ and different agency models. After completing an intensive CAM (Communications, Advertising and Marketing) course, a friend of mine told me I should apply for a job with the Direct Mail Sales Bureau (a consultancy funded by the Royal Mail and a few big DM agencies to encourage media planners to consider direct marketing as part of the media mix). This was where I probably learnt the most in my career in the shortest amount of time. Media planners don’t take hostages. This was my stepping-stone into the agency world where I’ve been ever since.

What was good and bad about your first job? The best bit about any first job is that you think that you can conquer the world. I was lucky enough to have a great boss (Steve Grout, now a major player in the DDB Europe network) who not only taught me how to do my job, but to do it with a great attitude. I remember having a lot of fun in my first job. I guess what’s bad is that you never think you earn enough!

List your jobs to date: Direct Mail Sales Bureau – Executive Rapp Collins – London – Account director Rapp Collins Europe – Group account director Rapp Collins Chicago – Group account director CDP – Business director Limbo/BBH Unlimited – New business director Clark McKay and Walpole – Business development director/Managing director Personal – Managing partner

What were the best and worst, and why? The best is Personal. We (my three partners and I) set up the agency from scratch, putting right what we thought was wrong with many of the agencies we had worked at and making sure we didn’t make the same mistakes. The most challenging was CDP – working in a culture dominated by its advertising success of the 70s, then struggling to embrace integration.

Who has been your biggest inspiration? Juliet Timms, (now at Kendall Tarrant).  A very sharp mind, utterly charming and quite brilliant at driving new business.

Who in the industry do you most admire? Simon Thompson – Motorola.  I worked with Simon briefly at CDP. He is a very bright guy, doesn’t get himself embroiled in politics and has a very clear vision about what he needs to change and why. It is down to his vision and energy that Honda is the success story that it is.

What is your biggest achievement to date? Creating something in Personal that is genuinely different from our competitors. It is difficult to make a change for the better and not just run with the pack. What I also love now is being in a position to spot and encourage rising talent.

On what do you base your success so far? Always go with your first instinct, it’s often right.

What are your ambitions? To achieve a work/life balance! To convince procurement departments that size does negatively influence the quality of an agency’s work as well as its hunger and passion. A great agency is a great agency. A good agency will always deliver if the hunger is there. 

Change one thing about your job: I need more hours in the day.

Change one thing about your industry: Ingrained prejudices and lazy thinking.

Change one thing about the world: Less reality TV and fewer TV celebrities. Put genuine talent back on the agenda.

What is your favourite brand? Sony. I stuck with them through the wilderness years. They now have a product range and communication platform that is just superb.

What is the next big brand in your view? I don’t know, or I’d make a fortune but I think political parties will get smarter and smarter at behaving as brands behave.

List your ‘media diet’: Mon – Fri: Virgin Radio/Metro/Guardian/Most of the Channel 4 brands.Sat – The Guardian.Sun – Radio 4/The Times. In addition: Marketing press, Youtube, BBC website.


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