Ad all over: Marina Palomba, McCann Erickson

Marina Palomba has found her perfect job as general counsel at global ad agency McCann Erickson.

Marina Palomba
Marina Palomba

With the popularity of the ­television series Mad Men, a career in advertising has never seemed more glamorous.
The legal landscape behind the slick product placements also carries its own unique appeal, according to Marina Palomba, who arrived as ­general counsel at the London office of global advertising agency McCann Erickson in April.

The advertising lawyer, who ­previously spent eight years as legal director at the Institute of ­Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and a year at Reed Smith, said the agency’s creativity was a huge draw for her.

“It’s my dream job to be honest; I love adland,” she says. “It’s a fun, interesting industry, with interesting law and interesting challenges. I like the product and I’m quite ­creative, and I like being at the coalface of the industry and seeing things all the way through.”

Despite the massive global clout of McCann Erickson’s US holding company, which has a legal department of about 30 lawyers, Palomba has inherited a far more modest legal team on this side of the pond, along with quite a raft of responsibilities.

As well as heading up legal at McCann’s London office with the help of just one temporary assistant, Palomba also oversees its other ­English offices in Birmingham, ­Bristol and Manchester, plus its European, Middle East and Africa (Emea) footprint.

“The [legal] team will have to grow and this will probably happen in the New Year,” she says. “First and ­foremost I need assistants to help me within the UK, and they would be based in the London office.”

Palomba also shares her time among the legal needs of McCann’s sister agencies MRM Worldwide, Momentum Worldwide and McCann Healthcare Worldwide. Although she is spreading herself quite thinly among her range of priorities, ­Palomba says her role at McCann has been made easier by her previous background working alongside the agency while at the IPA.

“It feels very much like home,” she says of McCann Erickson. “At the IPA I acted as in-house counsel for a lot of the McCann group, so I had those relationships in place already.

“My experience at the IPA and ­subsequently at Reed Smith has been invaluable. I learnt everything I know about advertising while acting for 270 or so agencies as legal director at the IPA. At McCann I like being part of the business and being more involved in the commercial side of it. I also like being able to go ­downstairs and actually see them making the ads and amending them.”

Based in 130 countries, McCann Erickson is one of the world’s largest advertising networks and boasts major clients including L’Oreal, American Airlines, Mastercard, Coca Cola, Toshiba, Xbox, B&Q, Subway and Aldi.
McCann’s London office is also working for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog), with Palomba advising alongside other major legal players, including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

The lawyer adds that her legal and advisory work for major household name accounts is also extremely wide ranging.

“We deal with all contract issues, including client contracts, supplier contracts, contracts with artists and all TV production contracts,” she explains. “And on the content side we advise on all content compliance issues for the ads. Then there are peripheral things, such as looking after your trademark, training, and there’s always some kind of litigation or dispute going on.”

Palomba currently instructs external firms on an ad hoc basis, although media specialist Lewis Silkin has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the agency, advising on its employment and property work.

She also turns to Wedlake Bell for ­litigation requirements and her old firm Reed Smith for general advertising and media advice.

Palomba says she can foresee a time when a more formal panel would make sense.

“It might happen, but it would be at least another six months away,” she adds.

Looking to the future, Palomba sees data protection and other issues surrounding the expansion of online, behavioural and geo-location advertising as key legal challenges for McCann Erickson and its clients.

”More spend is going into online and behavioural advertising, and this raises a lot of issues regarding data ­protection,” she explains. “Obviously the big debate at the moment is about consent to the use of cookies in ­advertising. That’s a big issue for our clients right now.”