Is Hytner weary of all the razzmatazz?

The surprise – well, one surprise – about Jim Hytner quitting as Barclays’ marketing director was not so much that he left, but that he took so long in doing so.

The clouds began to gather quite early in his three-year tenure with the displacement of the man who had hired him, Barclays chief executive of UK banking Roger Davis, in December 2005. From then on, Hytner was involved in a behind-the-scenes turf war with the US import, Deanna Oppenheimer, who replaced Davis and took a much more personal interest in marketing. Nor did Hytner do himself any favours with Barclays president Bob Diamond when he loyally refused to pitch the advertising business out of Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Still, needs must. Hytner clung on for a respectable amount of time in the interests of his CV. The £350m marketing budget and the commensurate salary package may look alluring, but Hytner didn’t do it for the money or for fun. Most packaged goods-bred marketers find banking frustrating: all that money (relative to most other sectors), yet so little real power in a bureaucratic environment where marketing is often regarded as a promotional sideshow.

No, Hytner – after ten years in media – did it to gain gravitas. “The Ant & Dec of marketing” may be a cruel caricature, but it carries an element of truth. Hytner is bubbly, agile on his feet and frightfully well known in the industry, but no one would accuse him of being its greatest strategist. As a matter of fact, his performance at Barclays was more heavyweight than many would have expected. He rightly dropped the Fluent in Finance campaign because he believed it too highflown and pretentious. Its successor, “Now there’s a thought”, has attracted some ridicule, but seems better judged. It’s much more down to earth (in line with average customer expectations), and contains an important insight: that the only way to make retail banking more successful is to humanise it, and that means getting the staff behind you. Which he seems to have done.

But Top Up TV, the other Hytner surprise? Many thought Hytner a shoo-in for the commercial director post at ITVa return to the high-profile media role he seems comfortable with. He’d been there before as marketing director and would be aware just how poisoned the chalice is. Yet he ruled himself out on the grounds that the job was too “sales oriented”. Interesting, given that commercial director is his board-level role at Top Up, which is essentially a supplier, rather than a brand. So where’s the marketing part? Has Jim got tired of the razzmatazz? We’ll have to see.

Meanwhile, whoever takes on the ITV job – and it looks like Mike Moran – will need nerves of steel. Moran has bags of sales experience (witness his last role at Toyota as commercial director). More importantly, he scores where the last incumbent Ian McCulloch didn’t: he’s an authentic industry figure with legendary networking skills. Time done at Toyota, not to mention at ISBA as chairman, means he will credibly provide what ITV has lacked since the departure of Mick Desmond: an advertiser-friendly face who knows what a good ad campaign is. Now, Mike, about ITV digital…

Stuart Smith, Editor


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