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Friday, 17 April 2009

Cheers, Rod

Back in December 1985, I ran (or tried not to interfere in other people running) Britain’s biggest direct marketing agency.

We were being courted by many of the big groups – I think we had conversations with eight of the top twenty. Eventually it came to make-your-mind-up time.

We had two choices. Grey Advertising and Ogilvy and Mather. We went and had dinner with Grey, who were making the better financial offer.

Their main negotiator was rather aggressive. He kept asking why we would want to stick around once the deal was done.

This was stupid for three reasons. First, we had to, as it was in the contract. Second, the question impugned our honesty. Third, we had pride in our reputation..

So I went to the toilet with my partner, and suggested we should tell them to fuck off, which we did.

Ogilvy and Mather were gentlemen. They had strong beliefs – especially in educating their people. They stood for something.

The other people stood for nothing except making money. So we did a deal with Ogilvy.

I made a lot of money – which I no longer have. The person who, very largely, made this possible was a very talented young man called Rod Wright.

The chief reason for his success was an ability to motivate, a very good mind, a great sense of fun which he communicated to all of us (he is the only person I know whose shenanigans got him a full page in the Sun newspaper) and an eagerness to take on any challenge.

He was amazingly good at getting new business. This was uncanny. I cannot explain quite how he did it, as he was one of the most hesitant speakers I have ever met.

For five or six years we were very close. Then we each went off in different directions, into the corporate stratosphere.

This week he died suddenly. A dreadful shame. In a world of corporate drones, he made the right kind of difference.

Cheers, Rod.

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