Guardian’s David Magliano reflects on the ‘humiliation’ of England’s 2018 World Cup bid

The story of my CV: Guardian News and Media MD David Magliano talks through the highs and lows of his career, from winning the race to host the 2012 Olympics to scandal at the Co-op and humiliation with England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

Seduced by advertising after an engineering education and a post at Shell as a business process analyst, David Magliano’s career journey moved into the agency world and then spanned startups, Olympic and World Cup bids, a retailer in turmoil and a news industry in the midst of building a new business model.

Magliano’s career moments include feeling “exhausted” at the management buyout of British Airways’ low-cost airline Go, which was then bought by easyJet, feeling “exhilarated” when working on the successful bid to host the London 2012 Olympics and being “utterly humiliated” by the failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup that ended in scandal.

A need to do social good and an attraction to startups are commons threads for several of his past roles. British Airways’ launch of a low-cost airline was both a new business and was bringing travel to the masses with the deregulation of air travel to Europe in the late 1990s.

“The Co-op falls into that mould,” he says. “It’s the UK’s largest mutual – it’s a force for good.”

The London 2012 bid eventually made way for The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), which Magliano had a part in setting up, following the successful campaign to host the games.

In 2014, Magliano launched the Guardian’s membership scheme and introduced the payment model of voluntary reader contributions as the publisher looks for new revenue streams.

The role, despite the challenges that publishers are facing, isn’t “any harder” than the challenges the marketer has faced in the past, but he says: “It’s an intellectual challenge for sure.”

A merging of creativity and purpose

Various agency roles (1988-1998)

“I was doing fine [as an analyst at Shell] but I couldn’t say I particularly enjoyed it. I’ve always been really interested in advertising and I’m one of these people that can name a brand from a couple of notes in the jingle from the 1970s or 1980s. It’s creativity with a purpose and today I can just enjoy the skill and quality and the craft of a piece of persuasive communication.

“I found it impossible to get a job at a London agency as I didn’t have any relevant experience – it was a destination career so there was no shortage of applicants. [Getting a job at Imagination, before going to Ogilvy] was a big moment.

“David Ogilvy was still alive then, it was like joining a Madison Avenue agency. I’m probably one of only a handful of people in the industry that have had the luxury of spending £1m on a TV production budget – those were the days.”

Go (British Airways), sales and marketing director (1998-2002)

“I was scared because up until that time I had only worked in agencies and I had never been a marketing director, never mind a sales and marketing director. So I would have responsibility for all revenue. If I look back at my career, that to me is when I realised having responsibility for delivering the revenue was a critical moment.

“Eventually, two things happened. Go was sold off and the management of Go did a buyout from BA, backed by a venture capital firm, [and then it] received an approach from easyJet to buy Go. We set up go with £25m from BA and the management bought it for £110m. BA had quadrupled their money in three years. Less than nine months later Go was sold to easyJet for £374m.

“It was an exhausting time – I was on the first and final flights of Go.”

EasyJet, sales and marketing director (2002-2003)

“On the surface, [Go and easyJet] were very similar businesses. We flew the same kind of aircraft, visited the same destinations; we had different brands but selling roughly the same thing. But the cultures were quite different.

“I didn’t enjoy the culture at easyJet. Go had an agile or ‘build, measure, learn’ kind of thing, so we would try things, see how they worked and then proceed accordingly; but easyJet, because it was that much more established, had a formula, a way of doing things. I came up against that a couple of times.”

READ MORE: EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall on how marketers can soar

An extraordinary and intense time

Credit: IOC/John Huet

London 2012 bid, director of marketing (2003-2005)

“It’s the most exhilarating thing I have done without any shadow of a doubt. London 2012 is a new business pitch: you are setting up a company to do one thing and that is to pitch for new business. It’s a laid-out process – once you are in the process the timetable is fixed externally, so it’s very pacey.

READ MORE: Why London 2012 is about the money, money, money

“It so happened that on 6 July 2005, we just beat the French. It was a fantastic moment and there’s a clip of the moment the IOC reads out [the winning country] showing the London team jumping – I know where I am in that clip and I am jumping higher than that.

“The last three weeks we worked continuously, and six days a week for the last three months – it was an extraordinary and intense time.”

Various non-executive director and consultant roles (2006-2008)

“I had been through setting up Go, a management buy out, merging with easyJet, setting up London 2012 and although I didn’t join Locog – the company that was set up to run the Olympic Games – I did help set it up and close down the company that was called London 2012.

“I did all that and I just wanted a break and fell into a number of consultant and non executive director roles, the most interesting one was being on the board of Dyson.”

Humiliation over England’s 2018 World Cup bid

England 2018, director of commercial and marketing (2009-2010)

“As we all know, England came last with two votes and one of them would have been from our own FIFA member so effectively we only got one vote, which was humiliating. I was despondent. It was crushing.

“Up until the end it was equally exhilarating, even more so because I prefer football to many Olympic sports. There were some things that were part of the job that you just can’t believe; I spent six weeks in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup to lobby the FIFA members. There are moments on TV where I’m there with David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William and that is unreal.

READ MORE: Coca-Cola slams ‘disappointing’ World Cup bidding report

“I feel that we were quite naïve in playing by the rules, trying to win something in good faith when it was stacked against us from the start in a way that we didn’t truly understand and only became clear afterwards. There’s nothing we could have done. In order to have won it, we would have had to done things that crossed the line of what most people that do business would consider acceptable.”

Consultant to Qatar Stars League, IMG Doha (2011-2012)

The Co-operative Group, group brand director (2012-2014)

“I was joining at a time when the businesses were merging and a team was created to manage and orchestrate the brand at a group level – I thought there was tons of opportunity.

“Not long after I got there the wheels starting falling off. They announced a big loss, had to sell a share in the bank and the chair of the bank Paul Flowers was caught in a sting with crystal meth and rent boys. There was quite a lot of turmoil. I am pleased they have finally shipped what we were hoping to do with its big brand positioning and rebranding.”

Innovative revenue models in publishing

Guardian News and Media, managing director, membership, marketing and consumer revenue (2014 – present)

“What I consider myself doing is trying to find a sustainable business model for quality journalism, finding a way for Guardian readers to help fund our journalism without having a pay wall, so what had been an opportunity for incremental revenue has now become a central part of our strategy.

“Brexit, Trump, fake news, and post-truth politics, all of that has heightened people’s awareness of the value that public interest journalism plays. There’s a growing understanding of the business model being broken and recognising that if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

“Almost all recognise that it’s only fair to pay but we need to find the right way to nudge them or invite them to pay.”