Magazine article Marketing

A Mercurial Temperament

Magazine article Marketing

A Mercurial Temperament

Article excerpt

Rarely has one man generated such a flood of anecdotal description: "aggressive", "massively over-confident", even "mouthy git". But all-in-all, my first encounter with the "young funky marketing hero" is curiously anti-climactic.

Simon Esberger hit the headlines again last week - after months of lipsmacking speculation on his future at Dalgety - as marketing director of Mercury Communications. Complete with new telephone tie, he's better looking than his photographs, on the right side of charming, and only faintly "impatient".

Now 38, Esberger shot to stardom at marketing phenomenon Haagen-Dazs. The US brand entered an uneducated British market with an ad budget of [pounds]300,000. The relentless, if necessary, publicity - including starring in a trade ad with a near-naked lovely - has left him with a 120-watt news rating: "In England, when you're perceived not to have got what you wanted, it gets distorted."

It'd be naive to deny the dramatic potential of Esberger's career path. Haagen-Dazs was "great fun until they decided to shove it under GrandMet Foods". The company built him a new job: European project director. It didn't work and hasn't been filled since.

Spillers is even more intriguing. He joined as marketing director and was acting md a year later. But the ground shifted when reshuffles within Dalgety, coinciding with its Quaker European petfood acquisition, brought Nigel Garrow's surprise transfer to head Spillers. He imported his own man and Esberger was left in limbo.

By contrast, the Mercury reorganisation is ten months old and, for once, has actually created a job. Even so, Esberger got back from holiday to discover his new boss Duncan Lewis had resigned.

Luckily, the strategy lives on under successor Peter Howell-Davies: "Haagen-Dazs was great because I was in charge of the brand. They couldn't put a sign up in the shops iri wasn't happy. The impression from Peter is that's what's required here."

Lowe Howard-Spink managing director Tim Lindsay speaks up for the "spiky" marketer. Esberger gave his blessing to the agency's spoof Haagen-Dazs cinema ad for Fosters. But two days before the launch "the shit hit the fan". GrandMet executives were already getting cold feet about the ever hotter ads. For Esberger it was wobbly job time.

Luckily the group chairman saw the tape being screened for the corporate lynch mob, and loved it. …

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