PROFILE: Game for a battle - GILES THOMAS, MARKETING DIRECTOR, SEGA UK

Giles Thomas has just accepted what must be one of the toughest jobs in marketing. Like a young David pitching against the mighty Goliath, he is taking Sega into battle against PlayStation.

Giles Thomas has just accepted what must be one of the toughest

jobs in marketing. Like a young David pitching against the mighty

Goliath, he is taking Sega into battle against PlayStation.



As its new marketing director, Thomas will be responsible for launching

Sega’s new 128-bit console, Dreamcast, in the UK. Launching in Japan

next month and in Europe next year, Sega hopes the product - backed by a

pounds 60m budget - will return it to its former glory and knock

PlayStation off the top spot.



The battle will be bloody. In recent months, PlayStation has outsold

Sega’s Saturn by as much as nine to one. Sony also has a super-advanced

PlayStation 2 up its sleeve.



Most people would be quaking in their boots. Not Thomas. He is used to

life on the edge after his stint at MTV Networks Europe where he is

serving out his notice as head of marketing communications.



When I meet Thomas, at London’s new bar-cum-MTV venue Sound Republic, he

claims to be having an ’absolute bloody nightmare’. It’s 24 hours before

Sound Republic’s official launch and he still doesn’t know whether the

headline act, Puff Daddy, is going to show up.



Looking at Thomas, you’d have no idea of his panic. He sits on a sofa,

radiating an aura of calm as though he’s overdosed on camomile tea.



’You have to work in this loose, flexible way, particularly when it

comes to unpredictable musicians,’ says Thomas, ’otherwise you’d die of

stress.’



Perhaps Thomas’ patience with musicians stems from the fact that he used

to be one himself. A guitarist for around ten years, his group produced

an album, two singles and was chosen by John Peel to appear at the ICA

as an up and coming band. But Perfect Vision - Thomas cringes at the

name - never quite got there. They gave themselves a time period to make

it big, otherwise they would get proper jobs. So in the late 80s, when

everyone wanted to get into advertising, Thomas decided to give it a go

too.



His method was innovative. He placed ads in The Times, addressed to

agency chiefs who’d just got promotions, congratulating them and asking

to meet them. They included John Banks, then at Young & Rubicam and

Michael Baulk, then at Ogilvy & Mather. It worked - up to a point.

Thomas got interviews, but no job offers.



’I was incensed. I hate rejection; it’s like a red rag to a bull,’ says

Thomas. Sensing that the blue hair he was still sporting from his band

days had influenced their decision, he got rid of it and tried

again.



A year later he was working as account manager - ’on the glamorous

Allied Carpets’ - at Y&R.



He spent seven years in advertising before going to MTV to launch its

VH1 channel in the UK and Europe. Thomas proudly notes his success at

MTV, where VH1 became Viacom’s fastest breakeven product launch and its

advertising and marketing campaigns won awards. Only time will tell

whether he will be equally successful with Dreamcast, but Thomas is well

aware of the pressure.



’We have a great product, which is four times faster than anything else

currently around, so if it goes wrong, it’s my fault,’ he says.



This is a brave admission, particularly at the moment, as no firm

marketing plans are in place. Research is still being conducted and

Thomas could not say how the product will be positioned or which age

group will be targeted.



’There are numerous routes we could take. PlayStation’s marketing was

clever in that they made the product trendy and then took it into the

mainstream. We don’t know whether we need to take that route. You could

argue that PlayStation, by creating a mass market, has done the hard

work for us,’ he says.



Despite the lack of a plan, he is confident of success. This self-belief

is something Chris O’Shea remembers when Thomas was at Banks Hoggins

O’Shea.



’He was very self-confident which sometimes spilt over into smugness.

But I remember him with fond memories. He was hardworking, had

initiative and was a very good cricketer. He’s the sort of bloke that

likes to win,’ he says.



Robert Campbell, partner at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, also worked

with Thomas at Banks. He believes his strength is keeping level-headed

despite the chaos of the youth market.



’He’s good at being a sane man in a crazy world,’ says Campbell.



’He’s very in touch with the youth market. Sega needs a shot in the arm

and he’s the kind of bloke to do it.’



BIOGRAPHY

1991-1994

Account director, Banks Hoggins O’Shea

1994-1996

Marketing manager VH1

1996-1997

Head of trade marketing MTV Networks Europe

1997-1998

Head of marketing communications MTV Networks Europe

Present

Marketing director, Sega UK



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