Shaper: MT Rainey

Show aired on 21st February 2015

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was I Put A Spell On You from none other than Nina Simone. Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss, here on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalent in the world of business. My Business Shaper today is MT Rainey; she is the founder of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, it’s a bit of a mouthful I know, a very very famous advertising agency in the UK as well as being chairman of Think Digital Agency and becoming more famous as we speak. You will be hearing lots from her very shortly. In addition to hearing from MT, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mischon De Reya some words of advice for your business and as well as all of that I hear you cry, yes some fantastic music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, including The Elder Statesman, Nancy Wilson, Jason Moran and this from blues man, Eric Bibb.

That was Silver Spoon from Eric Bibb. This is Jazz Shapers, thank you very much for joining me. My Business Shaper today is MT Rainey, otherwise known as Marie-Therese, in the business though of advertising everyone knows her as MT and boy has she made a name for herself in the world of advertising. She was one of the founders of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe as I said, the agency behind Virgin Atlantic, behind the BBC and Marks and Spencer as well as other incredibly high profile brands. She is also the chairman of Think which is a digital agency. She is on the Board of Channel 4, I know its ridiculous; you’ll be hearing very shortly and be amazed at this incredible woman and she is also the vice chair of Skill Set, the sector skills council for the creative industries. What an intro. You’ve got to live up to that now.

MT Rainey
Quite long.

Elliott Moss
Very long. Well there’s lots to talk about. Thank you so much for joining me. Now you have described yourself as the accidental entrepreneur and we will come on to that in a bit. How you founded this great agency with your partners. Tell me about where it started in advertising and I want to understand why you got into it. How did it all begin for you?

MT Rainey
Probably like most people a little bit of luck and a little bit of judgment so I came directly from Glasgow University. I did a PHD in psychology. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I sort of discovered advertising by chance. My first job was in publishing and one of the things we published was Campaign Magazine. This was for IPC and Campaign Magazine was by far the most glamorous publication that we had and I thought ‘well this industry looks interesting’ and just discovered the world of advertising and decided I wanted to be in it and blagged my way in to it, leveraging my very brief publishing experience. So a bit of luck but it was an industry that fascinated me, this was in the very late 70s. I could see that advertising was a booming industry, it was creative and it was also analytical. It was clearly very commercial and very competitive but it was full of interesting people and lots of interesting creative people and I just thought ‘what a great business to try and get into’ so I did.

Elliot Moss
Now you managed to end up working in America for a very famous agency called Chiat Day at that time and story has it that you ended up working with Steve Jobs himself and were part of the team behind ensuring that that incredibly famous Apple commercial in 1984 called ‘1984’ made it on to the screens. What was it like working alongside someone like Steve Jobs? Because people always talk about these icons of business and there are not many people that I’ve met that actually work with them. How would you sum him up?

MT Rainey
Well first of all Steve Jobs then isn’t the icon that we think of him now. I mean this was in 1983 when I first actually got a call to go and work in America when I had only been in the business for three years. I had never been to America. I had never been to San Francisco. I didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t know very much about technology and they did want me to go and work on a range of technology business…

Elliot Moss
Apart from that though it was perfect.

MT Rainey
…And I was afraid of flying so I thought well this is perfect. So I thought ‘I’ll do this’ and actually the industry wasn’t famous but it did become more but it was right at the birth of the whole Silicon Valley thing and Apple was at the centre of that so the idea of going over to work with Steve Jobs who wasn’t famous then; he was known and if you did a bit of research you would have known him and certainly Apple was known but not famous. Very much a small company then, a very sort of upstart company, not the Apple we know now. So it was fantastic but it was nothing like… it wasn’t like being thrust into the iconic Apple business and the iconic personality of Steve Jobs that we know now. He was however a really fantastic person to meet and to have met so early so in my life and early in my career. He was blessed with a great chip on his shoulder that really drove him and he was determined through the Macintosh to democratise computing power and this was in the days if you can imagine where the word personal computer was an oxymoron. I mean you had big main frames and you didn’t have little computers at all, you didn’t have… people couldn’t use computers and his vision was really to unleash that power that was really only held by very few people and very few companies and bring it to people and that was really what was driving his vision. His vision really was quite sociological actually.

Elliot Moss
Well stay with me to find out why it was so sociological. We are also going to touch a bit more on the not famous Steve Jobs then and where MT Rainey’s life went next. Time for some music, this is Montreux Sunrise from The Elder Statesman.

That was Montreux Sunrise from The Elder Statesman. MT Rainey, Marie-Therese in case you want to know what it stands for and you weren’t listening earlier, MT Rainey is my Business Shaper, as I said earlier she is the founder of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, a very famous advertising agency and has many very important positions in the creative world. We were talking earlier about the 1983 not famous Steve Jobs but still a fantastic guy. You mentioned something MT and I want to talk about it specifically because I think it unpacks a lot about all sorts of successful people – just very briefly you mentioned, you said he had a chip on his shoulder. What was the nature of the chip? And how did it drive him?

MT Rainey
I think the nature of the chip was this fear that he had that computers, I mean he was a computer scientist, he was in the sort of Xerox labs, he was a very early day’s computer scientist and I think he definitely felt that computers had to belong to people. That power had to be given to people so it was a chip on his shoulder about power, like many of us have, you know, many of us have you know, we have to democratise everything don’t we but computing power was what he wanted to democratise and I think he had had an interesting family background. Obviously I think most people know some of the story of that. He was very much his own man, he was not differential to anyone, he was very curious, he was very demanding and he was extremely ambitious. There was no, nothing practical got in the way of his ambition. He didn’t see any practical barriers to achieving what he wanted to achieve.

Elliot Moss
Now that summary of him and now thinking about you for a moment. How does it – you became – I mean he had a vision as you said and Apple earlier this year announced I think the largest ever quarterly profits in the history of the corporate world. So things happened and obviously he had a very very bumpy journey. For you though, you came back from the States, you were asked to run the Chiat Day Agency in the UK and then opportunities arose for you to end up setting up your own business. What’s your chip? What helped you become the person that you became, the runner of a company?

MT Rainey
I don’t think my chip is silicon that’s for sure but I don’t know, I think, I think I have – it’s a bit Scottish, it’s a bit female and it’s a bit kind of working class in a way. I really wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to not conform to practices that I thought were antediluvian or wasteful or inefficient. I loved working for Chiat Day for ten years but at the end of ten years back in the UK I could see our industry was changing and I just really wanted to do something where we could start again, kind of re-engin… pre-engineering an agency for the way the advertising business was going, not where it had been and partly inspired by how great and how innovative and ahead of the curve Chiat Day was for all those years so, so I guess my chip is, is just always trying to do the next thing, the right thing, something better for the industry that I love.

Elliot Moss
Now obviously you have to make that up because you don’t know because by definition the nature of innovation is that you smash the things that were there before but you don’t know if it is going to work because it hasn’t happened. In the early years of Rainey Kelly, in the early 90’s, was it clear that things were going to work or were there moments when you doubted the recipe of the four of you that had come together?

MT Rainey
No I didn’t doubt it. I knew I had picked some fantastic partners and that is really key to it. I could not have done it on my own and neither could they. It was a great partnership. It was a great – there were four of us and we hired some very good people very early on. I knew – our idea was that the way that the industry was changing, the way that media was becoming de-coupled from creativity and yet agencies were still charging based on the commission system was kind of antediluvian and also really unfair, unfair for agencies that worked particularly hard and did particularly well and unfair to clients who had to pay the same money for agencies that didn’t work very hard and didn’t do particularly well. So, so we wanted to create a kind of payment structure that was much more around valuing ideas and creativity and decoupling it from that media equation and I knew that was right and that turned out to be right and I think that was. I mean obviously the agency had to do great work for its clients but I think that fundamental premis of understanding how the industry was changing and changing our structures around that really was compelling to clients as well.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, MT Rainey and find out how the antediluvian or rather anti-antediluvian chip on her particular shoulder has ensured that she has carried on trail blazing. Latest travel coming up in a couple of minutes but before that some words of wisdom for your business from our program partners at Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning from 9.00am sharp here on Jazz FM you get to hear me asking hopefully some pertinent questions of my wonderful shapers from the world of business. If you have missed any then go into iTunes and you can look them all up there or at least most of them. If you are on a British Airways flight I believe you can catch them over there, FT.com and Cityam are also at your disposal. MT Rainey or Marie-Therese if you didn’t know her full name, is my Business Shaper today. If you were listening earlier you will know that she is the founder of one of the most iconic and successful ad agencies of the last twenty years, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe. She is the chairman of Think which is a digital agency, she is also on the Board of Channel 4, I am going to stop there before I embarrass her any more. Lots of things to celebrate. We were talking about partnership MT, we were talking about breaking antediluvian practices and charging clients what they ought to be charged rather than just some notional number based on how much media you actually bought. In the years that led up to you selling and you sold the business I believe in around 2005? Is that right?

MT Rainey
Err no we sold the business at the end of the…

Elliot Moss
’99?

MT Rainey
…end of the century.

Elliot Moss
End of the century sorry, yes that’s right.

MT Rainey
We did party like it was.

Elliot Moss
You did party like it was exactly. When you sold were you happy or did you feel like you had unfinished business?

MT Rainey
No we sold – it was our intent to sell very specifically to this company that we sold to which was Young and Rubicam which had fabulous big old Maddison Avenue classic old agency in America, very famous, very wonderful brand but struggling in London at the time. It had a big office and we knew that we could helicopter into that office and that brand and that business we could really help change from a much bigger platform, change the world of advertising and we were the twenty first biggest agency in the UK when we sold and Y&R London, that big brand was the twentieth so there was a big delta between twenty and twenty one but we were adjacent to them and in the five years where we completed the earn out when we joined with them and merged with them and took over their company, they are now number three so it was a real journey. It was fantastic.

Elliot Moss
Do you think what you learnt in those five years inside a big company having sold, having done the diligence, having had the lawyers round the table, the accountants and everyone else. Did you learn very different and useful things versus the first six years where you essentially built the business and if you did, what were they?

MT Rainey
Yeah I think I remember the, I remember the – this is interesting for lawyers listening, the Mishcon people, it was the biggest conference room I have ever been in with the most number of documents I have ever seen in my life, with the most number of signatures required to do the deal. I did have a brief moment of seller’s remorse but it didn’t last very long. So yeah I think the experience of – what effectively happened when we sort of helicoptered in to Young and Rubicam London we became Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y and R – there’s another long word – what effectively happened was that we became bosses as well as leaders. Previously we were leaders in our own company, it was an enterprise, it was a start-up, it was doing really well. When you take over a company of four hundred and fifty people you suddenly have a whole different set of jobs to do because you are the boss of a really significant big business. You are part of an international network so you are looking up, you’re looking over the pond, you’re looking as it turned out the following year to Martin Sorrell which was very interesting and a whole other experience in itself and you are managing a very large group of people. So you have to do completely different things. So that was partly why we did it because we as individuals knew that we wanted the company and the people in it to be able to grow and to give them that space to grow and also for ourselves. We wanted new challenges as well so we did do different jobs after that. We became bosses as well as leaders.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, MT Rainey. Time for some more music, this is Nancy Wilson, I hope it’s true because she says The Best Is Yet To Come.

That was Nancy Wilson and The Best Is Yet To Come. MT Rainey is my Business Shaper and we have been talking about the transition from being a leader to being a boss. Now you, you did your own out as you said in 2005 things came to an end. What did that feel like? I mean you created a baby which has become a grown-up which has then really spread its wings and is part of an international network as you said and you are suddenly in your own right someone who has been through, created a company, nurtured the company, merged the company, sold a company, all in the space of about twelve years or so.

MT Rainey
Twelve years.

Elliot Moss
Amazing. What did it feel like? Were you ready to stop or was it the sense there was another chapter and you just needed to dust yourself off and start again?

MT Rainey
Well I think 2005 was a very particular time, it was – we had had the first internet crash at that point and we were starting to see a new kind of internet emerge which was of course social media and so that world was completely changing again. Also after the earn out we, I mean some of us did stay, one of us left before the earn out, a couple of us stayed a bit longer and one of us is still there so it wasn’t a question of having to leave. It was a bit of a question for me of having – that job was done for me personally. The agency was in fantastic shape, we had great succession management in the form of people you will have heard of now that went on to form Adam & Eve, the wonderful James Murphy and Ben and David so I was very very happy that that job was really done and could it get any better than this and also for me the career path would have been in that big International network. The career path would have been back to America. You know, the bigger jobs of going round New York, go and do something big in America. Since I had already been there that didn’t really apply or appeal. So I just thought that its probably time, you know, I’ve got the wherewithal, I’ve got the opportunity, I think I’ll step out because everything is in good shape and do something a little bit more, certainly more digital. I was very very interested in social media and the social internet and something probably a bit more for good, something that would be giving something back.

Elliot Moss
And you mention succession planning and you mention the team of people that have indeed gone on to create another fantastic agency and mentoring as such therefore and coaching people and bringing the best out of them is obviously part of your DNA which would explain why you created Horses Mouth which is this on-line mentoring service. I imagine also that you didn’t mention the M word, the money word but when you have money in the bank to a certain extent whether it’s you know, one pound or a hundred pounds, whatever makes it work for you. There is a sense of liberation I imagine so you have been able to do other things. Has that lib… has that liberated you or is it just me thinking that would have made a difference? Because you don’t seem driven by money?

MT Rainey
No it’s really weird and it sounds a pretentious thing to say but I am really not interested in money. You know I do have a financial advisor who manages a couple of bits for me and he is absolutely shocked by my lack of interest and my total trust in him. I have absolutely no interest in money. Having said that, it is and it was liberating in as much as had I been interested in money I would have stayed where I was and accumulated more of a pile whereas I didn’t do that, I had what I needed. I had a great house, I had been able to buy a house. I was able to go on nice holidays and live reasonably well, that’s all I need and they couldn’t take that away from me so it is liberating in that sense yes. But I think you are right, and I do hear a lot of people say that really successful entrepreneurs as you say, are really hardly ever really motivated by money. And I think that has always been true. Whether it is true now of the young technology field where kids really do think they can make a mint by selling a widget that’s done well – I am not sure that’s so true now but certainly then, money was not the motivating factor.

Elliot Moss
We will have our final chat with MT plus play a track from Jason Moran’s tribute to Fats Waller. That’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was Ain’t Misbehavin’ from Jason Moran. MT Rainey is my Business Shaper just for a few precious minutes and if you have been listening earlier you hopefully will have been inspired by the fact that she said ‘money isn’t the only important thing, values are important’ and all the things she has gone and done. Now you have done lots of things beyond creating Horses Mouth, you’ve been asked and you do sit on the Board of Channel 4, you are involved in the Sector Skills Council as the vice chair of the Skill Set – this portfolio life that you have now and of course you are chair of Think, the digital agency – a big part of that as well. Do you enjoy jumping from bit to bit. Is it a bit like having lots of clients to worry about and the fact that your brain works in that way. Is it more productive with more problems?

MT Rainey
It’s suits my life at the moment. I would say that I definitely don’t feel the same as if I am contributing as much as I did when I ran my own business so you don’t approach those things with as much passion but you do feel that you can make contributions but the contributions are so sort of packaged up and tidied away that it’s not… you can’t affect the whole thing really, it is not as passionate a part of one’s life as the previous, or certainly in my case. It might be for others so you have to adjust to being slightly external to the main workings of the organisations that you are advising. I mean it is still a very valuable role and you can add value and one tries to but I think it is less innovating than running your own business or being an executive in a company or even in those companies.

Elliot Moss
But you have been, and I can completely understand that makes perfect sense not being at the core of things and that impact as you said but it must be nice being sought after because WH Smith has asked you in the past, you’ve been on the Board as a non-exec director; I think you were a trustee of the political think tank Demos. I mean these are things that say that you are well respected. As you look back now, I mean does that feeling of affirmation matter to you? Do you need other people to tell you that or has it always been an internal thing?

MT Rainey
No that’s always nice. That’s great so it’s always nice to be in demand if you say so but yeah I have always been fairly kind of impervious to what other people think but of course it is always nice to know that you still have skills that are relevant and of course I feel like I do so particularly I think in the whole area of mentoring people and seeing you know, seeing where people are going wrong and can go right and helping people you know, navigate that is, is something that is very motivating to me across all of the portfolio that I have.

Elliot Moss
And across all of that portfolio, what do you think the next few years hold for you? What sort of things will you be trying to shape as you look at the different things that you are involved in?

MT Rainey
Well I would like to see Think become the very famous successful digital agency that it deserves to be and it’s on track to do that. I think we are coming up for some very interesting times with the review of public service broadcasting so I would like to support Channel 4 in their endeavours in the next couple of years on that when they are doing brilliantly at the moment. And I would like to, I’d probably like to pivot Horses Mouth into something a little bit more, I would say, a bit more commercial or more commercially founded. Right now it’s a not for profit but I think it will probably help more people if it is in a more commercial model.

Elliot Moss
And just before I ask you your song choice and thank you for being so honest with me – one word answer – good time to go into the creative industries? Yes or No?

MT Rainey
Yes absolutely yes.

Elliot Moss
Good, that’s what I thought you’d say. I hoped you’d say that. Fantastic. MT thank you so much for being my Business Shaper. Tell me about your song choice – what is it and why have you chosen it?

MT Rainey
So when you were all listening to Depeche Mode and Bronski Beat and Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the ‘80s I was living in San Francisco and you could only get those on very scratchy radio stations which I did, I did try and keep up with the ‘80’s music scene but really the sound track of my ‘80’s was more along the lines of Joe Sample and so I have chosen Rainbow Seeker from that wonderful album and I think he is a wonderful jazz pianist so I will have that please.

Elliot Moss
Here it is for you. Thank you so much. This is Rainbow Seeker from Joe Sample.

That was Rainbow Seeker from Joe Sample, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, MT Rainey; talk about an innovator, one hundred percent focussed on innovation, unbelievably insightful person, someone who really sought to get under the skin of a problem and solve it and fundamentally a believer in helping people realise their potential. What a great mix and not surprisingly a successful individual. Do join me again, same time, same place for another edition of Jazz Shapers – that’s 9.00am next Saturday morning here on Jazz FM. In the meantime though stay with us because coming up next, it’s Mr Nigel Williams.

MT Rainey

MT Rainey is a Director of Channel 4, Chair of TH_NK, Founder of horsemouth.co.uk and Vice Chair of Creative Skillset.

Born in Scotland, she began her career in advertising as an Account Planner at TBWA then at 80’s start-up Gold Greenlees Trott. In ’83 MT was headhunted by Jay Chiat to join his eponymous agency Chiat/Day in California to work on the Apple account team which launched The Macintosh with Steve Jobs. She rose to become Head of Planning at the agency, across three US offices, and was named Advertising Woman of The Year by Adweek in ’88.

In 1993, MT launched her own agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, which grew quickly with clients like Virgin, BT and Scottish & Newcastle. Having built the agency to a secure top five brand position in the UK, she resigned from her role as Chair of the company in 2005. Since leaving advertising, MT has built a social enterprise called horsesmouth.co.uk, inspired by the potential of new media to create significant public value. Horsesmouth.co.uk is an online social network for safe, informal one-to-one mentoring and now has over 85,000 members.

Last year she was in instrumental in creating the Let’s Stay Together campaign on social media which gave a voice to those in the UK who supported Scotland remaining in The Union at The Scottish Referendum.

She is a former Chair of the Marketing Group of Great Britain and a former President of The Thirty Club of London.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

Advertising was a booming industry, it was creative and it was also analytical.  It was very commercial and competitive, but it was full of interesting, creative people and I thought ‘what a great business to try and get into’, so I did.

Steve Jobs was a really fantastic person to have met so early in my life and my career.  He was blessed with a great chip on his shoulder that really drove him. Nothing practical got in the way of his ambition.

I really wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to not conform to practices that I thought were antediluvian or wasteful or inefficient.

I picked some fantastic partners and that really is the key to it. I could not have done it on my own and neither could they.

What effectively happened when we sort of helicoptered in to Young and Rubicam London was that we became bosses as well as leaders.

I just thought, this is probably the time – I’ve got the wherewithal, I’ve got the opportunity, I think I’ll step out because everything is in good shape.

I was very interested in social media and something that would be giving something back.

I have absolutely no interest in money.

I have always been fairly impervious to what other people think.