Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Simon Francis, CEO, Flock Associates

Simon Francis is CEO at Flock Associates. Previously, he was CEO, EMEA at Saatchi & Saatchi, and Aegis Media MD EMEA. He also held senior positions at agencies including Leo Burnett, MindShare and ZenithOptimedia.

Who is your media hero?

Christine Walker. Ex CEO of Zenith and Founder of Walker Media.

What has she done to win hero status in your eyes?

Christine was one of the original transformers. She transformed media by playing her role in creating Zenith. She became a figure head for women (and men) in the industry.

She was passionate, impatient, fun and actually really cared about people (although managed to hide that pretty well sometimes!) She believed in technology. And brought planning alongside buying in the independent agencies.

She drove a jag, smoked, drank and swore. What’s not to like?

How has her heroism helped drive media?

Zenith (with Christine at the helm) changed everything, it brought media out from the broom cupboard.

It led to a wave of change across buying, planning, and insight. Some of the benefits have been huge, some of the downsides of that the transformation Christine led, and others abused, also pretty big.

But I think it’s fair to say without Christine media would have been “different”.

What are next challenges in media we need another hero to solve?

The media industry needs to serve two gods; the consumer and the advertiser. It has become self serving and lost sight of these two primary functions.

A new hero will blaze a trail to make media about clients and consumers again. The person that does will win, and win big.

What is your most heroic achievement in media?

I’m not sure I’ve had many “heroic” moments. After three weeks in my first job I did take the media budget for a Castlemaine XXXX double page spread in the Morning Advertiser (a trade press title serving owners of pubs) and instead of booking space created an Australia Day promotion because it seemed a good idea.

Despite winning an award, it equally won me a humongous telling off by Saatchi who thought their advert prettier.

I guess I’m a slow learner and have been trying to create “good ideas” ever since, through Zenith, Leo Burnett Media, MindShare, OMD, Dentsu Aegis, and now at Flock.

To all my bosses, I’m truly sorry!