Paul Woolmington

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"Everyone talks about media neutrality-Paul has built an agency that understands it and executes on it," says Tim Mapes, managing director of marketing for Delta Air Lines' fledgling spinoff airline, Song.

The Paul to whom Mr. Mapes is referring is Woolmington, the agency he is praising is The Media Kitchen, the media shop that Mr. Woolmington founded, leads and co-owns with independent creative agency Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

The Song marketing chief is one of the most recent converts to the shop, having handed the Manhattan-based agency its business early this summer. He's not the only one to have hired the Kitchen this year: The agency recently beat out many of the best and biggest to land Kao Corp.'s $100 million Andrew Jergens Co. account and BAT-owned Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.'s $60 million media contract. They join an increasingly impressive client list that includes Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Verizon Communications' SuperPages.

Mr. Woolmington-a U.S.-acclimated Brit who was born in Africa and has a daughter called India-doesn't believe in billings as a measure of his business' success. When pushed, he admits that the agency will handle billings in excess of $1 billion next year-up from around $600 million this year. But Mr. Woolmington's biggest achievement may be his role promoting media neutrality in U.S. marketing. For most of his 20-year plus career he believed in the idea that the media solution to a marketer's needs should not be pre-determined by an agency's dependence on certain types of advertising such as TV commercials for revenue. But in previous roles at WPP Group's Y&R Advertising and Ammirati Puris Lintas, he wasn't able to create a completely media neutral agency.


"You can't retrofit neutrality," he explains. "I always wanted to start from scratch with a completely different structure." Accordingly, he set up Media Kitchen to bill on a fee and performance basis rather than on commission.

"Creative shouldn't be reserved for the message," says Sarah Beatty, senior VP-marketing, USA Networks, another Kitchen client. "He is a smart media buyer and an inspired creative thinker."

Mr. Woolmington has tried to raise the bar across the industry and is credited with having played a big part in the creation of the Media Lions competition at Cannes. "Media strategists should be able to win the top creative awards," he says. Reading Media Kitchen's case studies, that is a hard argument to dispute.

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