Emap was named Campaign's most dynamic media company and Emap Creative Solutions was named best print sales team at the 2002 Campaign Media Awards.
It was the creme de la creme. The Bobby Charlton of sales teams.
So why does Emap Advertising need to launch Emap Create, a team of three that will lead 240 sales staff toward creativity?
The reason is clear. Advertiser and agency demand. Advertisers want media owners to think beyond traditional spot advertising and Emap has a cross-media proposition comprising magazines, radio, internet and television that provides myriad options.
Emap's leap forward is that it will involve its whole sales force in the initiative. It sees a general move away from spot advertising towards advertorial, sponsorship and ad-funded programming as inevitable.
Sue Todd, the marketing director of Emap Advertising, says: "Emap Create will ensure that we can meet customers' increasing demands for this service and guarantee that whoever you contact in Emap Advertising, you can be certain of even better creative ideas."
And some of these creative ideas include the implausibly glamorous Foster's Pit Girls - ladies who, for large amounts of money, drape themselves across motor cars for magazine features and dazzle radio presenters. And all in the name of lager. What red-blooded lad wouldn't want a bit of that?
But some dare to suggest that Emap Advertising is underperforming in its service to advertisers despite its strong cross-media credentials and potential to provide interesting solutions.
Mark Helm, the head of radio at MediaVest, says: "Emap are too busy being traders most of the time. The cross-media team is very good but has to work hard with individual sales groups to be flexible. There is a view that Emap is too concerned about bringing the money in, and that Virgin Radio and Capital are creative and challenging and offer you opportunities. They don't actually sell to me. I need Emap to come up with opportunities that aren't just about cash for it."
Helm points to one Emap initiative to offer solutions to advertisers - fixed spots on its radio stations - as an example of a flawed plan. In signing up for fixed spots on Key, for example, he claims that there was also pressure to place advertising with other stations such as Viking FM.
But Helm does believe that the Emap Create initiative is a move in the right direction: "There's a real need for it to do it. It's an excellent idea. It's all been about spots and numbers and it needs to break away and be more about offering creative solutions to client problems."
Emap's strongest assets are still its magazines and even its arch-rival IPC Media cautiously applauds Emap Create. Neil Perkin, the corporate account director at IPC Advertising, says: "It's a reflection of what other companies are already doing. This is not as groundbreaking as it seems but we're all in the business of providing better solutions to clients, so it is a move in the right direction."
There may be dangers in Emap's approach. Helen Keable, the head of radio at Manning Gottlieb OMD, says: "This could go one of two ways. If they pull it together across different areas and achieve something, that's great. But if the net result is a bundle of indiscriminate sales pitches, then that would be a massive turn-off."
It might resemble the tough-tackling World Cup winner Nobby Stiles more than Bobby Charlton, but at least Emap Advertising is moving in the right direction.