Magazine article Marketing

The Best Policy

Magazine article Marketing

The Best Policy

Article excerpt

The way to the top in business these days is to change jobs every two years. And while you are about it, trade in your wife for a younger model every six years, and let the world know how well you are doing by constantly moving house.

Consider, then, the strange case of James Best, chairman of BMP DDB, the UK's fourth largest advertising agency and, from next month, chairman of the Advertising Association.

Not only has he worked for just one employer - BMP, which he joined straight from Oxford 21 years ago - but he has only ever been married to one woman, Pia, and still lives in the Dorset farmhouse where he was born, 42 years ago.

These facts alone suggest decency, a view confirmed by meeting him.

Best is modelling an affable air and a beard not a Noel Edmonds shifty type, but an avuncular Cap'n Birds Eye beard grown during a recent climbing trip in Bhutan.

Best implies, with self-deprecating charm, that the beard is somehow an accident. But as a planner whose job it is to understand symbolism, that seems implausible. "James is one of the most honest people I've ever met," says Patrick Collister, creative director of Ogilvy & Mather and a friend for 20 years. "But he is also a showman and likes appearing slightly out of place in the world of commerce."

Perhaps it is this ability to seem removed from the grubby everyday realities of business that makes Best, in the words of BMP chief executive Chris Powell, "a natural chairman". "He is likeable, utterly straight and very bright, but above all he has gravitas."

As chairman of the Advertising Association, Best faces the task of steering the industry - clients and media owners as well as agencies - through what is likely to be one of the most unstable periods in its history.

He identifies three major issues he believes the industry will have to confront: a Labour government; centralist regulatory noises from the European Union; and the bewildering revolution in electronic media.

A historian by training, he sees the freedoms enjoyed by advertising in a historical, and therefore vulnerable, context. "The tide has run to deregulation and less state intervention over the past 17 years," he says. But he warns the industry not to take its position for granted. …

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