Profile: Martin Liptrot, Ogilvy PR Worldwide

From Merseyside to Canary Wharf, via Manhattan and Memphis, Martin Liptrot has forged a diverse path to Ogilvy PR Worldwide’s top EMEA job.

The energetic 39-year-old Wirral native and Wolverhampton Polytechnic graduate has campaigned for New Labour in the North-West, lobbied on behalf of Philip Morris in London and Lausanne, and promoted the tobacco firm's parent Altria from Manhattan.

He will start at Ogilvy – his first agency role – on 30 January, moving from the top global comms job at US delivery company FedEx.

Preparing to relocate from Memphis with his New Yorker wife and their two young daughters, he jokes – Scouse accent diluted by his travels – 'If you know anyone selling a four-bed in Blackheath, let me know'.

At Ogilvy, Liptrot replaces Paul Barber, who left to follow his heart to Tottenham Hotspur. The challenge for Liptrot is a significant one: Ogilvy is seen within the PR industry as something of a fringe player, busier working for clients it shares with non-PR agencies within its parent ad group, Ogilvy & Mather, than competing for traditional PR business.

Liptrot argues – like his bosses and predecessors – that Ogilvy's '360-degree approach to marketing comms' is why many clients hire the agency. And, he asserts, why he is fit for the job – throughout the interview he enthuses about 'brands', 'growing networks' and 'integrated comms'.

He will oversee 35 offices, and expounds: 'My passion is to build networks. Here, this means in three ways: by geography, by practice and, because it's Ogilvy, by comms discipline.'

His ambitions are stated in general terms – 'we need to focus and crystallise what our offer is, and develop best-in-class practices' – but he apologises for the lack of precision, pointing out that he is yet to start at the agency.  

Liptrot's own background suggests he would want to develop a PA arm. He will only say: 'I acknowledge that my CV has a PA background – but it's always been working for large and
important brands. If we need to change things or add things at Ogilvy, we'll explore that.'

Liptrot's interest in the public realm owes to his time as Labour press officer for the North-West from 1993 until four months after Blair's landslide victory in May 1997. He had previously worked for the National Museums and Galleries in Liverpool.

He still attends Labour's annual conferences, 'meeting all the old North-West gang for a beer'.

In New Labour's early months in power, companies rushed to hire people close to the new rulers. Liptrot, a non-smoker, joined Philip Morris in London. Subsequently based in Switzerland, he is 'very proud' of helping to shepherd the company – under pressure from the health lobby – out of the closet PR-wise: 'The company's previous policy was "no comment, we'll see you in court".'

Then it was off to New York to help Philip Morris's parent rebrand as
Altria, his day job moving further into traditional corporate comms. After that FedEx beckoned, with Liptrot campaigning for fewer restrictions on global trade and announcing corporate investment deals across the globe.

As befits a son of Merseyside, Liptrot has a love of music. He reminisces about his time in Elvis's home city: 'Soon after I joined FedEx there was an event downtown: "Fifty years of rock 'n' roll: Merseyside and Memphis." I made sure I had tickets.' He is no nostalgia-head, though –  Bloc Party are his current iPod favourite.
And, of course, this Scouser is mad about football. In Memphis he played for an expat side called FC Europe. In what position? 'Centre-half. When you're 39, 6ft 4in and 16 stone there's only one place for you,' he grins.

Everton fan Liptrot will certainly relish being back in the same time
 zone as the Toffees' fixtures. Furthermore, he cannot wait to 'get back to reading the red tops and Sunday supplements'. The priority, though, is that new home to find and 35 office heads to meet and greet.

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