My Media Week: Stuart Bowden

This week, Stuart Bowden, managing director of MEC, admits to spin-class dodging, reminds himself to renew his Wired subscription and gets involved in pass-the-parcel team building.

Stuart Bowden: managing director of MEC
Stuart Bowden: managing director of MEC


I'm woken up by an unnerving combination of [BBC Radio 4 presenter] James Naughtie and my four-year-old daughter Liberty. Both of them seem to be trying to tell me something important, but I’m not quite mentally equipped to take in either of them.

It's the start of the week and in another triumph of hope over experience, I pack my running kit and head to the train. It's a blissfully brief and civilised 15-minute trip from leafy Herne Hill to less leafy SE1, during which I manage to suck up a little podcast action. f it’s Monday, then it’s almost certainly [BBC Radio 5 film critic] Mark Kermode.

A frantic half hour of email catch-up buys me 90 minutes of management board time. We meet as a team every Monday to get client updates, to look at the numbers, to talk about our people.

Today we spend a lot of time discussing our 2012 planning day, scheduled for later this week, and fine tuning our SoLoMo client conference that we are co-hosting with Google on Wednesday. Looks rather as if there is another busy week ahead.

Like all good Mondays, this one finishes with a couple of drinks with an ex-colleague whom I would dearly like to persuade to become a current colleague. Running kit remains untouched.


Lug sports kit into the office again full of good intentions to make the early morning spin class. Mercifully, a client email arrives just in time to give me the perfect excuse to detour to their offices for a catch-up on the state of their 2012 planning.

Quick trip to The Hospital to catch Wired editor David Rowan’s keynote Internet Week talk. Make mental note to renew my Wired subscription immediately.

Off to Lloyds for a detailed inter-agency planning session on their Q1 activity. This is the client that I spend most time actively working on, so it's the best chance I get all week to keep my hand in as a strategist. They keep me on my toes, in a good way.

Back to the South Bank to interview a potential new managing partner over lunch at Canteen. A meeting of minds over stew and dumplings makes it an hour well spent.

Arrive back in the office to a new business briefing session. We are all busy at the moment and it's a long shot, but the problem is proper interesting and the team really want to take a crack at it. I'm secretly delighted.

Take pristine gym kit to London's worst wine bar opposite our building for a catch-up with my chief executive Steve Hatch, chief operating officer Jason Dormieux, chief strategy officer Stuart Sullivan-Martin and deputy managing director Sarah Hennessy. We sit together, but somehow this seems to be the first time we've actually been in the same place at the same time for about four weeks.

World righted in 60 minutes flat.


The MEC and Google conference has arrived. We join 200 clients at BAFTA to get well and truly SoLoMo’d. I’m impressed again at just how brilliant the MEC strategy and digital teams are – James Caig and Carl Read both deliver presentations that have the audience buzzing.

Get to catch up with the awesome Spencer McHugh, Smudge and Nick Foster from Everything Everywhere.

Dash to Proximity for a working session on a new Lloyds brief. Get my fix of hands-on planning skills before heading back to the office to spend some time looking at our 2012 financial forecast – also strangely exciting.

With a superhuman effort, I decide to ditch the gym and make it home in time to see my children. Bath time, bed time and a complicated made-up story involving a pink pony conspire to leave me about 15 minutes for emails and another episode of 'Black Books' courtesy of BT Vision (I know, I know).


The agency's management team and ops board head to Watford for a day of strategic planning. Some 34 of us have been prepping for weeks.

In teams, we present our findings on four themes that we think we need to respond to in 2012. In between heated discussion and endless coffee, I'm endlessly reminded how lucky I am to work with such committed and talented people.

Session ends with plenty of agreement, work still to do and, of course, a significant dinner involving fancy dress, pass the parcel, Plasticine modelling and musical statues. As I keep telling my wife, this really is a tough gig.

My plan for a long trot around the beautifully landscaped grounds of The Grove is strangely delayed.


Spend the morning trying to turn all the thinking from the day before into a plan of action. Bid a fond farewell to lovely Watford before heading back into town on the train and catching up on some grown-up reading.

I currently manage about three books a year, all sub-divided into eight-minute segments that I struggle to reconnect in my brain.

Finally finish 'Hitch-22'. Decide I like author Christopher Hitchens less afterwards than I did before. Start reading 'Visit from the Goon Squad' – to my delight I discover it is a sequence of short, loosely connected stories, each most conveniently taking about 7.5 minutes to read.

At the office, I spend time with the managing partners and the chief financial officer exploring how the 2012 plans will need to be funded and resourced. Steve Hatch emerges from a "new business chemistry" meeting looking rather up for it.

Chief strategy officer Stuart Sullivan-Martin gathers his pitch team for a pre-weekend briefing. The agency is vibrating with activity and excitement.

Leg it at 5pm to the Dean Street Townhouse with my wife, feast on fish, and then head to see [Mark Rylance in] 'Jerusalem' – one of the most incredible nights in the theatre in years.

At home, I unpack a sports kit that still has absolutely no need to be laundered.

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