24 March 2007

Our new man in London

This is Adelaide Now's headline reporting Premier Rann's announcement that Mr Bill Muirhead will be South Australia's new Agent-General in London. ( The Premier's own website hasn't mentioned the appointment yet even though he described it as "critically important").

Mr Muirhead, we are told, "attended Lockleys Primary School". He's an executive director of the global advertising firm M&C Saatchi, whose website profile of him tells us that he worked in London from 1971 and implies that he's been living in New York since 1994, so perhaps he only lived in SA as a child (like Tony Blair).

There's a photo of Mr M on the Saatchi website, and a 1999 portrait of him in the British National Portrait Gallery's collection which shows him as a Dennis Waterman lookalike gingerly bestriding a pinball machine.

The Agent-General's position is not a diplomatic one (if it was Mr Downer or Mr Howard would have to appoint him). It is essentially a marketing one. As Mr Rann says :
"This appointment is critically important because it involves how SA is positioned in Britain and Europe... The area we want to concentrate on is building SA's profile in Britain. This includes areas such as defence, mining, tourism and skilled migration." The disclosure that Mr M will be a part-time Agent-General raised my eyebrows when I read of it, but I can see the wisdom of engaging him for what looks like a two year consultancy.

Mr M himself is quoted as saying
"This is a great chance for me to spread the word about SA to the rest of the world." A very general statement, but appropriate for the announcement of his appointment, especially as M&C Saatchi's business is based upon "one word equity". As the firm's home page says "the global ownership of one word is the most priceless asset a company can have in the digital age".

I wonder whether Mr M will come up with a single word which SA can own and, if so, what that word might be. Not, I hope, a variation on one of his company's recent attempts to promote Australia.

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