Geoff Ellerton’s small office is hidden somewhere in the art deco
warren above St James’s Park station that is London Transport’s nerve
centre. LT’s first head of marketing communications, now in his fourth
week at the job, seems composed despite the fierce political debate
raging outside over the Conservative Party’s recent decision to make
London Underground its next big privatisation.
’I didn’t expect to be plunged straight into this debate. It’s been a
torrid introduction,’ he says. But far from being daunted, Ellerton says
the political element ’adds spice’ to the job.
Of course it’s still early days. Ellerton is just getting to grips with
his new role and the pounds 10 million marketing budget at his
Some were surprised at LT’s decision to bring in an ’outsider’ for the
position, which had been vacant since the sudden departure last summer
of Ivor Godfrey-Davis and Jean Harris - respectively the former head of
public affairs and head of advertising and publicity.
Ellerton combines both roles in a similar remit to the one he enjoyed as
head of marketing at Midland Bank, which he left in 1996. Until then
Ellerton described himself as a ’peripatetic banker’, having performed
many roles at NatWest and First National Bank of Boston.
His 13 years at Midland didn’t see him gain marketing responsibility
until the 1990s. As personal banking director and then planning director
he was faced with rebuilding the bank’s reputation following the merger
with HSBC and financial problems in the late 1980s.
Then, as general manager for marketing, Ellerton integrated Midland’s
marketing communications strategy, launched the current advertising
theme and developed its first sponsorship strategy.
He says he left because of dwindling opportunities and for a change of
scene after 21 years in banking, although one former colleague believes
his outspoken style won him few friends in the HSBC hierarchy.
Ellerton believes LT was looking for someone who had demonstrated an
ability to make things happen and to manage change. Once again he sees
his role as integrating advertising, marketing and media relations to
rebuild a ’strong brand that has fallen into disrepair’. He is quick to
dismiss his lack of PR experience: ’I have been involved in the public
affairs arena and I’ve got a good team.’
Duncan Baker, currently group brand manager at Cable and Wireless, and
formerly head of public affairs at Midland alongside Ellerton, says of
him: ’Geoff has strong views on what he wants to achieve and you need a
very good case to convince him of your view.’
Ellerton admits to being single-minded, but not myopic. ’My strength is
that I’m strategic but also very focused on implementation,’ he
explains, ’I’m fortunate that the people I’ve worked with have realised
that my views come from the heart.’
Ellerton gives you all the right answers. Doesn’t anything make him
really passionate or angry? ’Yes, what really enrages me is poor
service,’ he responds. Another good answer, but only time will tell if
his new organisation can change public perceptions in this crucial area.
One certainly questions whether Midland ever really achieved this.
He denies any fears about the new position. ’The headhunter says he
thought I was looking for a bit of fun and he’s not totally wrong. In my
time between Midland and LT, I missed the buzz of corporate life.’
One might be tempted to put such a laid back attitude down to a
lucrative career as big corporations man and a house in Woking, the
epitome of middle England affluence. However appearances could be
A former colleague says: ’Geoff is an astute guy, he’s got a slightly
relaxed look, but in reality he’s razor sharp.’
Perhaps his biggest challenge will be getting home to Surrey each day on
a combination of London Underground and South West Trains.
Corporate finance manager NatWest bank
Group country manager, Singapore, Midland Bank
Planning director, Midland Bank
General manager, marketing, Midland Bank
Head of marketing communications, London Transport