Remembering media pioneer Paul Green

I see that Paul Green, founder of Media Buying Services in the UK, has died.

Green (below) was one of the few people in adland who can rightly be called a pioneer although MBS (as it became) first surfaced in Canada. Before Green there were full service agencies, including a media department. They made the ads and placed them (on TV preferably) in return for a commission from the media owner of between ten and 15 per cent. So everyone was happy – apart from the denizens of the media department and some clients who thought they were paying too much.

The media boys (which they mostly were back in 1970 when Green opened for business) were unhappy because, even though they looked after the money, the felt they were low on the agency’s list of priorities. Last to perform at pitches (sometimes not at all as the suits and creative droned on), sometimes without even a carpet in the office to call their own.

Green, who never had anything in common with a doormat, doubtless had a carpet in his role as media director of Garland-Compton, later to be bought by the nascent Saatchi & Saatchi.

But he decided to set up MBS, initially, according to the late Winston Fletcher, as an adjunct to agency media departments, doing the heavy lifting in return for a slice of commission. This didn’t fly as the agencies were reluctant to share their pie. So Green went it alone, once, it’s said, offering a client a cheque for one million pounds, the money he said his company could save them.

MBS waxed – with big-spending TV clients like K-Tel records and Ronco and then blue chips including Norwich Union – and then waned somewhat as other media independents came into the market and the big holding companies began to fight back, as Saatchi did by forming its own giant independent Zenith. Green was defenestrated by his partners in the late 1980s and went on to form TV sponsor ident company Media Dimensions.

What else made Green special? He was a truly larger than life character, getting me into trouble once when, at Marketing Week, I commissioned Angela Chatburn to write a profile of him. I didn’t think we had enough agency readers then so decided on a number of no-holds-barred such articles. Green obliged with some rollicking tales, which some sober-sided readers (and my bosses) thought cast the industry in an unfavourable light. They should have heard the ones we left out.

I didn’t know him then but later, in my PR company days, we were hired by by the new regime at MBS. Who were a decent crew, although that’s not how Green saw things obviously. I used to see Paul in a bar we both frequented, nursing his habitual bottle of Brouilly. All I received was a Green glower – not something to be borne lightly – until we were formally introduced by a mutual friend and became quite good pals.

He was lively, funny and highly intelligent – all qualities that used to define adland ‘s brighter sparks. Unmanageable maybe, but so what? Green made a difference – whether or not adland is a better place since the end of full service is another question – and will be much missed.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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