Top ten from a top gun


Another IBC has come and gone. I peaked early: for me the highlight came before we even set out for Amsterdam when, as I wrote here last month, I met Sir David Attenborough, winner of the International Honour for Excellence.
On site two things stand out. One was a delightful lunch, courtesy of my old and esteemed friend Roger Thornton of Quantel. I was sitting alongside Jerome d’Ambrosio, one of the drivers of the Formula 1 team Quantel sponsors.
He proved to be an absolutely charming character. I am still processing much of what he said, because to an ordinary, speed-limit-abiding chap like me it was hard to credit. To take just one example, he told me while racing at the Spa circuit, and driving at around 300 kph, he had time to spot his father in the stands.
Ordinarily Jerome would be the highlight, and I would be trying to find a way to link motor racing to television technology in a sufficiently coherent way to justify taking up a page of the magazine. But I encountered another and even more captivating character at IBC2011.
William H Roedy has the upright bearing of a man whose career was in the army. And that is how he started: the West Point military academy, followed by tours of duty on helicopter gunships in Vietnam and commanding NATO nuclear missile sites in Italy.
When he left the army, in 1979, his career took a leap sideways, because he joined broadcaster HBO in an accounts management role. Clearly he did well, because he was asked to take MTV worldwide. That was clearly either a stroke of genius or a stroke of madness on the part of his bosses: let’s use an army officer to put popular youth culture on a global stage.
Starting with MTV Europe in 1989, he built a global operation that now offers 172 channels in 162 countries and 33 languages. And clearly he loved every moment of his work and the people he met through it.
In the IBC conference session I attended he told more stories than I could keep up with, like the time he and Elton John got drunk together, which was the last time that Sir Elton drank alcohol. His website, billroedy.com, has a wonderful picture gallery with captions like “I took this snapshot as I greeted Destiny's Child on the red carpet of the 2004 Miami VMAs” and “With then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bob Geldof after Blair fielded difficult questions from a worldwide MTV audience in 2005”.
As a man who spent more than 20 years running music channels, perhaps inevitably he offered a top ten of hints for a successful business, which strike me as sound advice. If you would be kind enough to hum At the Sign of the Swinging Symbol, here is the chart rundown:
1 Go global. You need to reach as many markets as possible to achieve the required scale. But each country has to be treated differently, so…
2 Go local. Respect and reflect local cultures. The best way to do it is by having teams on the ground.
3 Be adaptable. The speed of technological change is advancing, so what works now may not be best tomorrow.
4 Break the rules. Take risks or things will not get done. And remember it is easier to apologise after the fact than get permission before it.
5 Never accept no for an answer. People will always find ways to be negative, but do not give up.
6 Surround yourself with good people.
7 Always work with passion. Care about what you do.
8 Travel. You have got to feel the culture, so you have to get your feet on the soil.
9 Happy people deliver success - work hard and play hard.
10 Learn from experiences.
My favourite is number four. It is certainly something I have always tended to do, but also I like the idea of someone who once had the keys to weapons of mass destruction advocating creative rule-breaking because you can always apologise afterwards.
I did not get the chance to ask him, but I suspect that Bill Roedy’s favourite would be number seven. Since retiring from MTV earlier this year he has devoted himself to campaigning for corporate social responsibility.
He initiated MTV International’s Staying Alive campaign, dedicated to HIV/Aids education. Today he works with a number of international bodies, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ensuring that corporate philanthropy is used to best effect. Not many of us will ever have that sort of resource available to do good, but he is living proof that you can run a highly successful business and use it to make the world a better place.
Which seems as good an excuse as any to urge you towards www.justgiving.com/IBC2IBC-Team to make a donation on behalf of the brave chaps – including the publishers of this fine magazine – who cycled from London to Amsterdam in around 19 hours. Not, perhaps, the most obvious preparation for a six day convention, but congratulations to all who made it.

Tags: william h roedy | mtv | ibc2011 | topten | iss058 | N/A
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