The Henley Centre is in the spotlight as two managers with advertising
backgrounds take the helm. Jane Bainbridge discovers which way the
consultancy will now be steered
Its client list boasts marketing giants such as Unilever, United
Distillers and BT. Yet the Henley Centre has a profile that’s so low
it’s almost non-existent.
This could perhaps be because its position in the market has been rather
vague. Indeed, when Marketing rang to ask how it defined itself, a
member of staff responded: ‘We’re not very sure where we’re positioned’.
What the centre is regarded for is the quality of its work and its
personnel. It is essentially a consultancy operation based on research
carried out for clients. The centre currently employs 65 people, most of
whom have social science and consultancy backgrounds.
Its associations have, in the past, tended to be dusty and academic,
although its work is used widely to help formulate marketing and
However, since it announced the appointment of Richard Hytner as its
chief executive and Paul Edwards as deputy chairman, the centre has
attracted rather more attention than it has been used to.
This is largely because of Hytner’s high profile in the industry, and
because those who know him expect him to take the centre in a new
Hytner and Edwards are the first people to join the company with
advertising backgrounds - both previously worked at Ammirati Puris
Lintas - so the question being raised is: how will this new blood affect
Chairman Bob Tyrrell sees the centre’s development as a logical
evolution: ‘We’ve gone from a wholly grant-funded academic institution
on forecast methodologies to becoming more relevant to the business
world. Today we’re in strategic planning and marketing consultancy. The
hallmark of Henley is reporting of analysis and our academic heritage
stands us in good stead.’
Although Tyrrell is not looking for a radical departure from the
centre’s existing focus, he expects Hytner to introduce a fresh outlook.
‘Principally, bringing someone like Richard in, with his marketing nous,
offers us the opportunity to reinforce the strategy that we occupy in
the marketing services world,’ says Tyrrell.
‘Why take people from the advertising world? It underlines that the
centre does need to continue to increase the applications of our work,’
But Hytner plays down the relevance of his and Edwards’ background:
‘There’s nothing significant in us coming from advertising. Henley would
have been interested in Paul anyway [because of his research background]
and my appointment is more because I’m a manager of teams.’
All parties seem to be focused on stretching the existing business of
Henley. Tyrrell says he wants to expand from carrying out strategic
consultancy and research work to offering clients further applications
from that research. ‘A perennial complaint is: analysis is good, but how
can it be used?’
Tyrrell feels the two newcomers’ experience in an industry which is
‘very can-do, very applications orientated’ should prove highly relevant
to the centre.
As Tyrrell puts it, the Henley Centre is looking to Hytner and Edwards
to act as ‘catalysts’ for the company. But will this mean it targets
advertising agencies for work, rather than its traditional base of
large marketing organisations?
‘We’re certainly not averse to doing work with agencies, but I wouldn’t
say, at this stage, that there are major opportunities among agencies,’
He does, however, see opportunities arising in sectors it has not
necessarily focused on before such as retailers, IT, telecoms, media,
and, in particular, the public sector.
Tyrrell says the public sector tends to spend a lot of money on
consultancy but the value of its service is sometimes questionable.
Henley is therefore looking to build on work it has already done with a
police authority and a government department.
Hytner is reluctant to say too much about where he might steer the
company, and he intends to spend the first few months ‘absorbing what it
does’. But he does support Tyrrell’s aim of finding ways to build on
data so it can be turned into practical ideas.
Hytner admits Henley has suffered from something of an image problem and
says a large element of what it will be doing is marketing itself:
‘People don’t know what we can do, they see us as forecasters from
robust data. We’ll consolidate that position and develop business in
various different ways.’
College to consultancy
* The Henley Centre was set up by by Henley Management College in 1974.
* In 1986 it went through a management buyout and, two years later,
joined the WPP group.
* It employs 65 people. Despite its name, it is in Blackfriars and has
never been based in Henley-on-Thames.
* 80% of its work is consultancy, the rest is research reports.
* Professor Thomas Kempner, from Henley Management College, and Stephen
King, of J. Walter Thompson, both act as non-executive directors.