Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Smooth Operator, Rupert Howell, Managing Director of Brand and Commercial Operations, ITV

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Smooth Operator, Rupert Howell, Managing Director of Brand and Commercial Operations, ITV

Article excerpt

On paper, at least, Rupert Howell, head of ITV's brand and communications function, seems as different from his predecessor, Ian McCulloch, as is possible.

McCulloch, although not without his own brand of quirky charm, was an acquired taste; he could be sarcastic and, colleagues claim, occasionally insensitive. Howell, meanwhile, though perhaps a touch smarmy, is smooth and displays easy charm. Howell is also collegiate and generous in his praise for the talent of those around him, while McCulloch was unshakeable in his self-belief and found it impossible to disguise his feelings, particularly his inability to suffer fools gladly.

The two also rose up through the ranks in very different ways - Howell, 50, is an old-school advertising account man, whereas McCulloch was an air-time trader who, despite taking a degree at Harvard Business School, never really managed to shake off his image as little more than a tough, if effective, negotiator.

True to his adman background, Howell also talks passionately about the value of the ITV brand and how the needs of customers are at the heart of everything he and his management team do, while McCulloch, rather unfairly, was labelled as a man more concerned with the technical minutiae of agency deals and cost per thousands.

It is these differences, and Howell's advertising heritage, that caused eyebrows to be raised in certain quarters when news of his forthcoming appointment broke last September. Others sniped that he was trading on distant past glories. 'Christ, it is a bit back to the future, isn't it?' said one.

While it is easy to knock his expensive tastes and flashiness - he has a helicopter and proudly boasts of owning a Ferrari at the age of 24 - and eye for self publicity, this is rather unfair. Howell is no fool and although he does not wear his determination on his sleeve as prominently as McCulloch, he is probably the right man for ITV and arguably has arrived at the right time.

It first emerged in 2006 that Howell had a desire to join the broadcaster and he admits that despite his apparent lack of media experience, he has been interested in it for a large part of his career.

'I have always found media people more interesting - and they could always get you tickets for games', he says in an aside typical of his faux flippancy. …

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