Fast track: CV: James Bidwell, Marketing Director of CarLand

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The Independent Culture
JAMES BIDWELL, 33, is marketing director of CarLand, which is bidding to overhaul the Arthur Daley image of the second-hand car market with massive retail-park superstores. Mr Bidwell is hoping to bring some Disney magic to the market, drawing on his five years working for the American company.

I went to Bristol University and did a French and German degree. I had met some people in advertising and thought they seemed to have a good time. I've always been interested in what triggers people, and advertising is all about that. So, in my final year at Bristol, I approached some London agencies and got a job at one of the best, Lowe Howard Spink.

I became an account handler, working with brands like Heineken. After about a year, I started thinking about using my French degree and organised a six-month secondment to the French arm of the agency, in Paris, working on accounts like Stella Artois. When I came back I decided to get involved with launches because it was something I had always been excited about. I worked on the launches of magazines such as Bella, Take a Break and TV Quick.

After three years in advertising, I heard that EuroDisney was being set up. I had been working on a magazine launch, and because of a copyright query, I had to ring Disney. I got put through to the head of marketing and asked him about EuroDisney. He said the marketing boss was in the next room, so I asked if I could go and see him - I did and I got a job. I'm an opportunist, so if something comes up I just make a call and sort it out.

I spent a year on the launch team. It was extraordinary watching EuroDisney being built - I remember driving around Thunder Mountain in my car. After Paris, we set up a London office to market EuroDisney to the UK and I was promotions manager.

Then came an opportunity to switch to marketing Florida's DisneyWorld brand to the UK. That was an exciting time in my career, criss-crossing the Atlantic to work in the States. Next, Sega approached me to be head of marketing for their theme park in London's Trocadero Centre. After a year, I was head-hunted to work for CarLand. The firm was set up by John Tuke, who had retired as MD of Henlys, a large motor distributor, but who had had this idea of revolutionising the second-hand car market.

"The philosophy is to put second-hand cars under one roof in a retail park and give them all a 150 point check by the RAC - it takes the angst out of buying a second-hand car. Our sales staff are not on commission.

I helped develop our idea of Car Locator computers. The first thing you do is tap in the details of what you are looking for and it prints out a map of a car in the store that will suit your needs. It's dramatic, because the computers are raised up on a podium so you can see 300-odd cars stretched out in front of you.

In terms of my CV, it's an important step for me to now be a director. I'm a bigger fish in a smaller operation, but I think working for such massive organisations in the first seven years of my career has been attractive in terms of giving me a degree of credibility.

CarLand has got tremendous potential, there is the possibility of a Stock Exchange flotation and, by 2000, we could also have a billion pound turnover.

Interview by Mark Oliver