She was born in Sweden, calls France ’home’, spent two years in
California and gave up BA to throw in her lot with a new player in the
dot.com market. She speaks four languages, is happy conversing in a few
others, collects modern abstract art and would probably lose a personal
PR account with Jeffrey Archer on day one. Louise Tingstrom is not your
average Josephine. More of the former Tory peer later.
Last month Tingstrom became director of marketing and communications for
antfactory, a six-month-old company which funds and helps internet
entrepreneurs. In the peculiarly bacteriological language of this
burgeoning sector, antfactory is the incubator, its charges are the
incubatees. She had been head of international communications at BA for
just a year before making the jump. From big corporate to small
start-up: on the face of it, a bold move. But Tingstrom has made this
sort of journey before.
Moving to Paris and the International Automobile Sport Federation in
1985, she found herself keeping 300 journalists happy at 16 grands prix
round the world. In 1988 she joined Charles Barker in London. The
country was coming to the end of its love affair with a never-ending
property boom; she saw the highs and she saw the crash when corporate PR
meant explaining redundancies and not much else.
Back in Paris in 1993, she freelanced, until she and a girlfriend
decided to set up their own agency, AKKA, in a loft in the 17th
A banking federation and a utility signed them up almost
In the next couple of years they took on South African Airways, moved
office and were courted by other consultancies keen to buy the
Visa International, meanwhile, wanted to know if Tingstrom would be
interested in a move to California to be senior vice-president of
It took some thinking about, but she sold her share of AKKA to her
partners and went.
Looking at the most recent stages of her CV might it be fair to conclude
that she gets bored easily, moves on with a haste some might balk
Two years at Visa, one year at BA? For the first time her fluent flow
falters. So, is it fair comment? Screwing up her face, she says: ’It’s
not fair. I don’t think I would have left Visa if the chief executive
And BA? You could perhaps make a case for that, she agrees honestly.
But being head of international communications was a fantastic job, she
insisted. But more than once she has said she is entrepreneurial, and
antfactory certainly fits that bracket in a way BA does not. One former
colleague at BA recalled: ’She is a real dynamo and very good at
motivating her team. They all loved her. She’ll make things happen.’
Perhaps not surprisingly she says, unprompted: ’I want to make things
happen. I have a very, very high energy level’. Involvement appears to
be what excites her at the moment. And with 100 staff at antfactory,
involvement is what she is getting: in branding, positioning, direct
marketing, on-line and off-line advertising and web site design for
starters. ’There is a much wider spectrum here. It is much more of a
complete marketing role than just PR, which is exciting.’
She says she is also a risk taker, and encourages her teams to take
risks in the knowledge that mistakes will not be punished. Does she ever
shout to get what she wants? ’It has happened. I’ve learned that it
isn’t productive.’ This does not mean she has acquired shrinking violet
’I always rock the boat,’ she says quietly.
A huge, New York-based international media event while at Visa came into
this category. With the senior management team from the US, Asia and
Europe gathered at the Rockerfeller Center at 6am for a pre-match
briefing, it occurred to her that things could go pear-shaped. An
expensive, bold project that had taken a long time to push through the
organisation now rested entirely on her. ’If it hadn’t worked I’d have
lost my job there and then,’ she says. It was tense, but she was
confident. It worked.
There may need to be more such leaps of faith if antfactory is to
prosper in what is already a competitive market. And she likes a
challenge, so back to Jeffrey Archer. When asked to speculate on her
approach to this purely hypothetical post she says she would persuade
him to stay out of the media limelight for a while, and concentrate on
writing, making a grand comeback when people have almost forgotten
The strategy would be fine - were it not for the fact that the master
storyteller is about to star in his own play and seems as much a media
player as ever before. This makes it just conceivable they may not have
seen eye to eye. Tingstrom laughs in agreement. Some you win.
1993: Founded AKKA, Paris
1997: Senior vice-president of corporate comms, Visa International
1998: Head of international communications, BA
2000: Director of marketing and comms, antfactory.