My life in advertising: Graham Duff
29 September 2011
Miroma managing director for UK & Europe talks to Josh Colley about his recent appointment at the London-based media barter company and how he has plans to mould something already good into something that can be even better.
For a career that has included merging two of the UK’s largest media owners and helping establish growth across two major media agencies, Graham Duff now faces what he sees as his biggest challenge: maintaining success.
“Often in my life I’ve gone into a company when it hasn’t been that successful,” says the recently-appointed Miroma managing director for UK & Europe. “This is my biggest challenge – taking something that is doing well and actually making it better.”
Duff ’s attitude is that the challenge is no easier than if the business was doing badly. “Every time I’ve been anywhere the start point is an issue that I have to deal with and it will come in different shapes and sizes, whether it’s financial, structural, or so forth. Here is a successful business and media barter in the UK is at its puberty stage.”
As chief executive of Granada Enterprises in 2002, Duff was instrumental in the creation of ITV, the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster, when Carlton and Granada Enterprises merged for $4bn. While the nine-month process was slow and complex, the benefit of hindsight allows him to look back at the experience fondly.
“I learnt a lot during that period, spending nine months surrounded by legal experts and accountants,” he recalls. “It was difficult because I knew I’d lose 150 people really quickly, but I think it was managed fairly well.”
A phone call from Zenith Media’s Steve King signalled Duff ’s first move into the media industry. He describes his time working at Zenith Media, which saw him become head of broadcasting in 1993 and then rise to the position of chief executive just four years later, as one of the highlights of his career to date.
He maintains that making the move from agency to media owner was easy because he was aware of the challenges, but he still holds an affinity for the commitment and effort that agency personnel put in.
“To me, an agency has real highs and real lows, whereas there’s always sales and other things going on at a media owner,” he explains. “An agency is more volatile. Generally, agency people work longer hours and experience more stress than media owners.”
It seems natural then that Duff would return to an agency after his stint at ITV, this time as president of EMEA at UM and eventually as president of EMEA at Mediabrands. According to Duff, his success is based on a simple formula.
“It’s about understanding where the right growth paths are. It’s about marrying knowledge and experience,” he explains. “The core principles are very simple and you can see it if you work within a media owner or a media agency. I see too many people dive into it and use trade language.”