By The Drum, Administrator

April 2, 2002 | 7 min read

Left to right: Vic Covey, Chairman, Ten Alps MTD, Guy Harrower, Joint Creative Director, Ten Alps MTD, Bob Geldof, Co-founder, Ten Alps, Euan Carmichael, Joint Creative Director, Ten Alps MTD, Alex Connock, CEO, Ten Alps Communications plc, Vince Meiklejo

Bob Geldof has done many things in his life - been a singer in the punk band the Boomtown Rats; set up Live Aid and demanded that we give 'some fookin' money'; set up a production company that spawned The Big Breakfast and The Word and was married to Paula Yates.

Yet the same man who is so engrained in the national consciousness as Saint Bob has now turned his attentions to something slightly different - the company Ten Alps, and in particular the advertising agency formerly known as Osprey.

Ten Alps MTD (standing for making the difference) was launched last week, and the honourable Sir Bob was in Edinburgh, in his capacity as a non-executive board member, waxing lyrical on all things creative in the advertising industry.

Ten Alps, the company, Geldof launched with Alex Connock only a short time after Carlton Television bought his production company Planet 24, is involved in a number of areas ranging from radio and television production to event management and, of course, advertising.

So, why did Ten Alps decide to rebrand Osprey ten months after the reverse takeover? Over to Bob:

"I think when the takeover happened there needed to be a certain amount of time for people to acclimatise themselves to it. We needed to work out the mechanism and how people would work together; we wanted each part of the group to find their own way, and for us to feel a communal way forward. I mean, we had just come in and taken over a highly profitable advertising agency. We didn't want to come in and say, now you're going to have to change your fookin' name," he says, laughing at the very thought of it.

"If they had wanted to stay as Osprey that would have been fine with us," he goes on. "There isn't a dictat, but it does make an awful lot of sense, especially when you are in a market that is changing its shape and is becoming content-driven as well as purely advertising and we're convinced that we are experiencing what everybody else is experiencing - that, you know, clients are looking for content for brands. That's what the logic of Ten Alps really is about. It's not really rocket science."

As Geldof explains, it wasn't a totally conscious effort to move into the Scottish advertising industry: "Why Scotland? I think the logic of having us (Ten Alps) in London, having Osprey RIM in the South and having Osprey Scotland up here is pretty impeccable as we can cover all bases. You have an integration that seems to work - it wasn't planned, but it just worked. I've been in these situations before. I was in it with the Boomtown Rats, which admittedly was a different area of the business, and I was in it with Planet 24; you just get this feeling that you are in a group. I mean, I promise you that's just how it works."

So, does Geldof actually understand the advertising industry, or is he here merely for the press coverage? He maintains that the advertising industry is the same as the music industry: "I have to market myself, whether it is through songs or through the telly. I am talking about myself; I am trying to pitch it. That's in effect what you are doing. It's no different to the advertising industry. That's what you, in effect, do as a musician - you make a video to promote yourself. I have to oversee the videos, the posters and the newspaper campaigns so I understand the needs for advertising entirely. With music you begin to understand events and television and radio and it's an easy piece of logic to move into production.

"And once you understand the production side it is easy to understand marketing and advertising too. That's why a band will wear silly clothes - to give them an identity. People in bands understand the need for marketing and advertising almost intuitively. So once you understand this whole area of persuading people, then you can ultimately understand the advertising industry. That's marketing - you are taking complex ideas and making people see your point of view. And I do get that - I always have.

"My dad was a salesman - he would travel around Ireland selling his carpets. I did a sort of Parkinson in Northern Ireland recently and the interviewer commented that it must be very different to the sort of life that he had. I said, not at all. I travel from town to town selling my tunes just as he travelled Ireland selling his weaves or whatever the fook it was."

Geldof, however, does not get involved with the nitty-gritty of the business: "I don't do the day-to-day tasks of the business, it's not what I do. Unfortunately for them, my flat is around the corner from the London offices so I do pop in to see what they are up to. That's not what I do for a company. I don't know what I do - that's the fookin' truth.

"I'm available if they need me - I will come to Scotland if they need me. That's it, I'm not a good manager, but I'm quite good as a board manager. The whole issue of being a successful company is the management. You can have the best ideas, but if those ideas can't be invaded then you can forget it. What I am good at is focusing the attention on the main prize. I'm quite good at sitting down and getting people to think as one and getting them to the core of the issue.

Geldof himself is only too aware that he is a brand of sorts: "I have been in hundreds of ad campaigns myself. I think that I will be doing the new police adverts, 'I couldn't do that, could you?'. I was railing against the new BBC ad - something that I did for Radio Five is now being used to advertise the whole of the BBC. I'm good at marketing - I can get ideas across."

Ten Alps, the group, offers a whole range of production for television radio and events. Geldof believes that by adding advertising into the equation the customer will simply get more value for their money.

"The content needs the brand now. The whole thing's becoming one integrated idea. Some people might say that advertising is dead - that is just not true. We are those soldiers. We are ahead of our projections, we are in deep profit and we have cash in hand. That's the mantra these days.

"Our figures as a group are really much greater now than if we had been completely separate companies. It works, you know, and we are very smug."


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