OPINION: Profile - Neil Mendoza, Marketing director, New Europe - Hammering the euro

The fight over the European single currency is likely to last for years, waged by opposing packs of hardened political animals.

The fight over the European single currency is likely to last for

years, waged by opposing packs of hardened political animals.



Somehow, Neil Mendoza, the marketing director of New Europe, a group

established to fight the introduction of the single currency, doesn’t

seem embittered enough to get involved. But, as he explains, New Europe

isn’t the bunch of ’crazy, swivel-eyed frothing-at-the-mouth Tories’

you’d expect.



Mendoza, who made his fortune as co-owner of contract publisher Forward,

became involved with the group at the suggestion of Mary Ann Sieghart,

deputy editor of The Times and New Europe council member.



Mendoza, 39, is a close friend of Sieghart, who is the sister of his

business partner William Sieghart. He says he he has never been involved

in politics but accepted the role in New Europe because he feels a

’powerful, emotional, visceral response against the single currency’.

Blair’s government angers him: ’In their hearts they are against the

single currency but they have to present a united front with their new

friends in Europe.’



He describes New Europe as left of centre and is himself a floating

voter.



At the last election he voted Conservative, but is keen to present the

single currency as a national, rather than a party-political, issue. New

Europe isn’t opposed to the European Union as such, but opposes the

single currency on economic and cultural grounds.



With its broadly pro-European stance, New Europe differs from groups

such as the Democracy Movement - the renamed Referendum Party - which

campaigns bitterly against Europe from a hard right-wing

perspective.



New Europe claims to be cross-party and was formed by three grandees

from across the main parties - Lord Owen, Lord Healey and Lord

Prior.



It is supported by powerful figures such as Lord Sainsbury and former

Barclays chief Martin Taylor, and is funded by individual subscriptions

from members.



It’s a powerful bringing together of the great and the good, but is it

capable of countering New Labour’s slick PR and spin machine, which has

yet to be put into gear to sell the euro to the British public? Last

year’s euro ads for UK businesses, through TBWA, represented part of the

COI’s record adspend, up 79% to pounds 105.4m.



Mendoza concedes that it will be difficult to get a complex message

across to the public ahead of any referendum on single currency, partly

due to general voter apathy.



’We’ve decided that it’s going to be a long game. It’s unclear when the

referendum will be called. Right now, public opinion is against the

single currency but, if Labour is elected again, who knows what might

happen.’



Mendoza says he is looking at various agencies for ideas to target

different audiences. Ahead of a referendum, this may mean lobbying the

100 or so decision- makers who will advise Blair on when to call a

referendum. Once this is called, a full-scale ad campaign may be waged.

However, spending on an anti-euro campaign in the year ahead of a

referendum will be capped at pounds 5m.



While Mendoza is not a classically trained marketer - he is a banker

turned entrepreneur - he possesses the right instincts to lead the New

Europe marketing effort. He freely admits that he ’knew nothing about

marketing’ when joining Forward in 1987 but his business moves since,

including the launch last year of Brilliant Books, which now supplies

over one million books to Tesco, have displayed his ability to spot a

marketing opportunity.



Forward is 50% owned by the Saatchi brothers, Maurice and Charles.

Mendoza is also involved in another venture with Charles, who has put up

the money to revive the Hammer film brand, with plans to update the

genre, which produced such blood-curdling classics as the Curse of

Frankenstein and the Bride of Dracula.



In his early career, Mendoza worked as a Hollywood wheeler dealer,

raising cash to fund films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and the Bond

film Never Say Never Again. His own cultural tastes are higher-brow - he

was once a director of the European Chamber Opera.



Business partner Sieghart describes him as ’a renaissance man in his

love of art, theatre and opera, but he also has a good natural

focus’.



This focus is usually on money. He is so obsessed with investments and

speculation that at one point he tells me he wishes he could buy shares

in people: ’It’s easy to spot when you’re young who will make money.

It’s a shame you can’t buy shares in them and sell if they start to

fail.’



But Mendoza is not completely obsessed. He is described as ’well

balanced’ by his friends and business associates. This balance has been

achieved, he says, because he is settled into a happy marriage with two

young children with whom he can now afford to spend a large amount of

time.



But New Europe looks set to take up more of Mendoza’s time. He and

fellow New Europe marketer, Steve Hilton - who worked on Tory campaigns

at M&C Saatchi for the past two elections - are busy trying to address

how best to put people off the single currency. Don’t be surprised if

some of Hammer’s horrors are wheeled out to symbolise that monetary

monster, the euro.



BIOGRAPHY



1981-1983: Financier, Morgan Guaranty Trust Co of New York



1983-1986: Director, Albion Films



1987-1999: Director (now chief executive), Forward Publishing



1999: Marketing director, New Europe.



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