Media: CV; Graham Hinton chairman, Bates Dorland

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I did a degree in economics and politics at London University in the late Sixties. In the middle, I took a year or so out and played in a band, and I was very tempted not to go back, because I met another group of musicians, in France, who asked me to join them - so the course of my whole life could have changed. But I did go back and finish it, externally, and got my BSc.

The only thing I thought I wanted to do was television journalism. I applied to the BBC, and got through to the final interview, but I blew it by saying something really crass. However, at the same time I applied to advertising agencies, because it was still to do with creating stuff for television, and I ended up working at an agency called Lintas as a graduate trainee.

I spent four years there, during which I got to know another graduate trainee called Tony Douglas, before joining McCann- Erickson in 1973. It was rocketing then, and had a great team running it, called Nigel Cranfield, Barry Day and Ann Burdis. But by the late Seventies, that management team split up, and they had never planned the succession. In the end, they brought back Ann Burdis, who brought in six vice-chairmen over our heads, and it was chaos.

I very nearly got out of advertising then, reapplying to get back into television. And I was offered a job at Yorkshire Television, but my wife was working on the stage in London, and we'd started having a family, and so that made it very difficult to leave. So I left McCanns at the end of 1981, and was arrogant, or stupid, enough not to go out and look for a job. I thought somebody would come and find me.

Eventually, an agency called Masius Wynn Williams offered me a job as a board director, and I effectively took a step down. It was any port in a storm, really. But Tony Douglas joined from Lintas with me, and for the next three years I just got my head down and got on with doing work again - enjoying the process of advertising, and handling accounts such as WH Smith and British Telecom.

By 1985, I felt the agency was stagnating, but then they asked Tony and me to be joint managing directors - which obviously we weren't going to turn down. But they did that because they were negotiating a merger between two multinational agencies, in all regions - D'Arcy McManus and Masius, and Benton and Bowles - and so in fact Tony and I ended up as joint MDs of the newly merged agency - DMB&B.

In London, these were two agencies which were both relatively stagnant and unsuccessful, and where there was a lot of conflict business. Clients such as Peugeot and General Foods left because of conflict, and Ray Morgan and Partners, the media arm of Benton and Bowles, broke away and set up their own company - so that took a whole chunk of billing out. Probably, the size of the merged agency dropped between a third and a half.

But some very good clients stuck with us, and we managed to marshal the Dunkirk spirit and turn the thing around to become Campaign's Agency of the Year in 1987-8. That was a fantastic period, and we worked on a lot of government campaigns. We went on from there to do campaigns for the 1991 census and the Inland Revenue, and then for road safety - the "Speed Kills" campaign - and drink-driving.

Tony and I ran the agency until 1995, when Tony was fired by our American management. That put me in an impossible position, and so I negotiated an exit and left after six months. And they put me on leave, so I went to music college for four months, and it was absolutely fantastic. I now know what I want to do when I can afford not to have to do a job. Then I got offered a job at Bates Dorland, and I joined in February 1996.

Since I've been here, I've been asked to stand for election as president of the Institute of the Practitioners of Advertising, and I took over in April. And issues have come from nowhere in the last six months: there's been this enormous debate over the moral code of newspapers following Diana's death, and about media costs and trying to increase advertising minutage on television. They don't give me sleepless nights, but they give me very stimulating days. I just hope I've got a few more years in me, because I can't afford to go back to music college yet.

Interview by Scott Hughes

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