Magazine article Marketing

Jeremy Lee on Media: Prime Mover Disadvantage

Magazine article Marketing

Jeremy Lee on Media: Prime Mover Disadvantage

Article excerpt

As Andy Duncan found at Channel 4, it's not about being first, it's what you do when you get there.

It was difficult to suppress a snigger - let alone a belly-laugh - on hearing that the former Channel 4 chief executive, Andy Duncan, had been hired by car dealership group HR Owen.

Small-minded snobbery aside, the amusement is not solely derived from the seeming lack of glamour and influence as elements in his new job running the car firm - even though, with its focus on prestige marques and supercars, HR Owen is not exactly Arthur Daley Motors. Nor is it just the discrepancy between his old, superannuated media remuneration package and new chalk-face, commercially realistic salary.

It is also down to the fact that Duncan, the classically trained FMCG marketer who shocked the TV world when he moved from being an effective marketer at the BBC to become what proved to be a less than brilliant media visionary at Channel 4, has again provided us with an emotion that is often all too lacking in the media industry - surprise.

The appointment of the famously hands-on Duncan at Channel 4 caused many observers to choke on their morning corn flakes.

Now, as he rolls up his sleeves and, metaphorically speaking, reaches for the chamois leather and can of T-Cut in his new job, it is entirely likely that deep down, and despite his inherently positive and genial nature, Duncan must also be feeling emotions akin to regret.

Whether in fairness or not, it is certain that Channel 4 historians won't be kind to Duncan. While the broadcaster achieved much during his tenure, such as the launch of the UK's first terrestrial time-shifted channel and the first UK internet TV service, they were too often just that - firsts. There wasn't really a coherent strategy, more an overwhelming desire within the organisation to beat everyone else to the line, regardless of whether it was the right thing to do.

Being prime mover is a powerful attribute for any brand to possess, but this principle, which was perhaps drummed into Duncan a little too firmly during his time at Unilever, proved superfluous at a publicly owned, public-service broadcaster.

It is unlikely that Duncan will care too much about history's judgment - after all, one of his finest qualities is his lack of vanity - but any sense of regret must have been exacerbated had he allowed himself a glance at Sky's annual report, published last week. …

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