Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Preparing to Go Public

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Preparing to Go Public

Article excerpt

Mark Lund, the COI's incoming chief executive, is keen to dismiss claims he is just another old-school adman. Interview by Gemma Charles.

Mark Lund got wind of his new job when a headhunter called and asked whether he knew anyone who would be interested in running the COI. 'I said that I would have a think about it and ring him back the next day with a couple of names,' he recalls. However, when Lund did return the call, he put forward one additional candidate - himself. 'The more I thought about it, the more interested I got,' he says.

One lengthy public sector interview process later, he emerged as the chief executive of an organisation boasting an annual adspend of about pounds 150m and a turnover of pounds 300m. As chief executive of ad agency DLKW, Lund, 49, is his own boss, but from June he will find himself in the very different position of reporting to Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne.

As he contemplates his move out of adland, his hunting ground for nearly 30 years, Lund admits that his last day will be 'really weird'. Gazing around the DLKW boardroom, he adds: 'I've been in this building for 14 years. That's how long you stay in school.'

Lund, quick with his observations, compares the COI to Doctor Who's Tardis. 'It looks both smaller than it actually is and less modern when you are an outsider,' he explains. 'But when you get inside it you realise that there are hundreds of people doing everything from traditional advertising and events to PR, news management and direct marketing.'

He is aware that his appointment could be seen as 'more of the same' because his predecessor at the COI, Alan Bishop, is another old-school adman. One observer with close links to the COI argues that Lund's appointment represents a 'missed opportunity' to show that the organisation is moving with the times.

'Clearly it's an absolutely justified reservation,' says Lund when this is put to him. 'My training is advertising and I'm conscious of my limitations, but at this agency we have striven to diversify. I'm personally interested in the means of communication and bringing it together as a whole.'

Sensing that he is vulnerable to this sort of criticism, Lund has stated clearly that digital engagement will be a priority when he first walks through the COI's doors this summer.

No conversation about political marketing and the web can take place these days without a mention of US president Barack Obama and his use of digital media in last year's election campaign. Lund is particularly keen on the line taken by Thomas Gensemer, the managing partner of Blue State Digital, Obama's digital agency. Gensemer stresses that for all the technology available, at the heart of making digital work is knowing what you want to say. 'It's an enabler rather than a magical device,' says Lund.

Coincidentally, the Cabinet Office advertised for a 'director of digital engagement' in the week that it announced Lund's appointment. How the successful candidate will fit in with Lund's vision is not clear, as the role does not appear to be part of the COI. Understandably, Lund would prefer to turn his mind to such matters once in the post.

Another priority for Lund is more collaborative working at the COI. 'The organisation has grown organically. Five years ago, 60% of its budget went on traditional advertising; now the proportion is 40%. Digital has grown ten-fold at the COI. I want to make use of different media and channels as seamlessly and holistically as possible.'

Does this mean big changes are afoot? …

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