Traveller homes in on new challenges

A life travelling the globe has given Andrew Green a unique perspective on the world’s media. But, as he tells Caitlin Fitzsimmons, he’s happy to be home and back in the bosom of his old employers.

Andrew Green, the newly appointed head of strategic resources at ZenithOptimedia, must be one of the few people in media who has used his gardening leave to actually do some serious gardening.

Between leaving OMD in New York at the end of 2003 and joining research and auditing firm Billetts in April last year, Green spent nearly four months building a maze at his farm in Devon.

"My number one interest at the moment is developing my garden," he says. His other passions include rare book collecting and French and Chinese art house cinema.

Green is the new boy at ZenithOptimedia – when Media Week met him at the agency's headquarters in Paddington, it was only his second day in the job.

But he has actually worked for the company twice before, helping set up Zenith Media in the 1980s and then launching the company in Asia in the late 1990s. He doesn't even have a new boss – he worked for Antony Young, now ZenithOptimedia's UK chief executive, for five years in Asia.

Green started his career in advertising as a personal assistant to the Saatchi brothers at Publicis-owned creative shop Saatchi & Saatchi in Charlotte Street, London, in the early 1980s.

Quirky anecdotes

He graduated from Oxford with a 2:1 in philosophy, politics and economics and very little idea of what he wanted to do in life.

He applied for jobs in journalism and accounting before eventually landing the job at Saatchi & Saatchi – a role he claims he won purely by charming the receptionist.

Nearly a quarter century later, Green is still no shrinking violet and is full of interesting opinions and quirky anecdotes.

"After about a year working for the Saatchi brothers and Martin Sorrell, who was finance director at the time, it was clear that I was better at numbers than I was at looking after Charles' art collection," Green recalls. "I asked them if I could get a job in the agency and it's one of those things where when you're in the door, it's easier than applying from outside."

Within about five minutes of his request, Green received a call from John Perriss in the research department, asking him to come and draw graphs for the first Saatchi & Saatchi guide to media.

Green later worked in planning and buying but returned to research as promotion opportunities arose and found himself head of research at Saatchi & Saatchi, just a few years after joining the industry.

Happenstance maybe, but for Green it's a happy one.

"First of all, media became the leading edge part of advertising and marketing in the 80s.

Then, within media, it was becoming so difficult and so complicated, that research became a more and more important part of the media game," he says. "It's been just a great place to be for the last few years and I think it almost started when I got into the business – I was very lucky timing-wise."

Green, who is replacing Frank Harrison who has moved on to a global role, says his job is to ensure ZenithOptimedia's return-on investment proposition is not just talk.

"If we're the ROI agency, we have to embrace this whole measurement conundrum and task and that's really what I'm here to put some intellectual capital behind," Green says.

"You have to connect the way we've always done things, which is Barb and the NRS and Rajar and all the rest of it, with business outcomes and currently it's just not. We assume that a programme doing 20 ratings is twice as good as a programme doing 10 ratings, whereas it might not be."

Green acknowledges that is not possible for everything to be absolutely measurable, particularly when trying new ideas, and sometimes there might be "a bit of guesswork" involved.

Move forward

The problem is that clients are not always prepared to pay for research – after all, it's their money anyway and they're paying for it in the cost-per-thousand.

Green says that argument is technically right but leads to a tendency for research to be "cheap and dirty".

"I think the only way this is going to move forward is if advertisers demand a bit more influence in the way media research is put together," he says.

"If you have a £10m budget and you put a percentage of that into measuring the outcomes better, it could probably save you more than you spend, yet people won't necessarily see it that way because it means you'll be able to buy less ratings."

There are some massive challenges facing media and research. First, there's the changing face of television as we know it, as technology allows viewers to skip the ads.

Secondly, Green says fewer and fewer people are prepared to respond to surveys asking them about their media consumption.

Green is disappointed in both TV measurement body Barb and its radio counterpart, Rajar.

Green, like outgoing Wireless Group boss Kelvin MacKenzie, believes that Rajar is dragging its heels over electronic measurement and that the GfK wristwatch, which Rajar decided not to test, is actually one of the better alternatives.

"This whole Rajar thing is just ridiculous – Kelvin MacKenzie is spot on, he's absolutely right," Green says. "We are having these little battles and three or four years of tests and half a million pounds' worth of testing and I don't even think they're testing the best of what's out there at the moment.

"I'm disappointed with Barb who've extended the People Meter thing to 2009 while they study everything.

"What we should be doing is merging Barb and Rajar in some way and trying to measure it all.” Media research is a profession that has taken Green all over the world – he has lived in six countries on three different continents in the past 15 years.

In the late 1980s it was France with Carat.

In the 1990s it was Asia – including Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. Then in 2000, he moved to New York with OMD. All were small start-ups at the time he joined and large conglomerates by the time he left.

Unsurprisingly, all that travel has given Green a unique perspective, not only on people and cultures, but also on media.

"The fundamentals of media planning and buying are the same everywhere," Green says.

"You select from among the best ways of communicating with a consumer and you try to buy that in the most cost-efficient way.

"Most of us use what we call currencies – ratings and reach and all the rest of it – but they mean different things in different countries, so from a media research point of view you do find that it's very different."

Quality research

While Green considers the UK to be one of the leading countries in terms of media planning and research, he says that it is not necessarily always the best.

"The UK is among the best in terms of the quality of its media research and I think the UK ranks very high in terms of the creativity of its media planning," Green says.

"But equally I would say there's some pretty good quality media research going on in places like China and Australia, places that you might not expect. We haven't got a monopoly on talent."

He found the quality of research in the US – which accounts for half the world's marketing spend – surprisingly poor, particularly television research which he describes as "far inferior".

By contrast, he says the opposite is true with something like magazines, where the US leads the way in terms of how planners treat the medium, looking beyond simple headcounts to more qualitative data.

Green's two proudest achievements are starting the publications division at Saatchi in the mid-1980s and helping establish television ratings in China in the 1990s.

He introduced a Chinese research company and French-based Taylor Nelson Sofres and the two companies formed a joint venture, CSM, now the official ratings body for all of China, including Hong Kong. He later wrote a book on the history of broadcasting in China.

Exotic as all that is, Green is glad to be home, with his flat in north London and farm in Devon – the property where he grew up.

"I like to travel but I have no burning desire any more," Green says. "My idea of a good time is to go to Devon now – not to head off to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat."

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