MEDIA HEADLINER: Newspaper supremo jumps ship in favour of outdoor life - Julie France looks for new challenges with the More Group, Ashley Davies says

Who on earth does Julie France think she is? Who, in their right mind, would accept the job of merging and heading a sales operation in a medium in which they have no experience? And not just any medium.

Who on earth does Julie France think she is? Who, in their right

mind, would accept the job of merging and heading a sales operation in a

medium in which they have no experience? And not just any medium.



Many of the players in the rough and tumble game of outdoor advertising

don’t take too kindly to people who come in from the outside to show

them how to improve their performance.



As the newly appointed group sales director of More Group (Campaign,

last week), she has a tough job ahead.



Yet France has probably merged and demerged more sales operations than

anyone in the media, and held her ground through three different owners

and several management changes at the Express.



According to those who know her well, she’s as hard as nails.



As one senior press buyer, who has been negotiating with her for years,

says: ’She will give them a good run for their money. When they shout

and swear, she will shout and swear louder. She is Scary Julie

Spice.’



Scary Julie says she would hate people to be terrified of her, but you

do get the impression she doesn’t trip over herself to be liked.



’It’s true that I give as good as I get,’ she says. ’But I’m pretty

direct, I don’t bear grudges and I say what I think. I think that makes

me easier to deal with.’



There are plenty of people who agree with her. Richard Britton,

non-broadcast director of CIA Medianetwork, says: ’Julie’s very

straightforward and no nonsense, so you know where you stand with her.

She’s been at the Express through thick and thin and that says a great

deal about her staying power, loyalty and ability.’



And Paul Mukherjee, press and radio buying director of MindShare,

describes France as the backbone of the Express’s sales operation.

’She’s fantastic, hard, very intelligent and witty. She’s probably one

of the best sales people about,’ he enthuses.



Part of his admiration for France comes from her taste for practical

jokes. One of the more memorable ones, at an Express sales conference in

Barcelona four years ago, resulted in the then advertisement manager,

Charles McCrostie, spending the gala night wearing a pair of trousers

which France had shortened on one leg.



Having proved her staying power after 14 years’ service on the Express,

France believes that a change is undoubtedly overdue and,

unsurprisingly, wanted a fresh challenge outside of newspapers.



The More Group approached her in April about the sales director’s post

and, at first, she wasn’t interested.



But she says the passion and enthusiasm evident in the More Group’s

management team of Peter Smyth, Coline McConville and Vincent Slevin

rubbed off and she came around to seeing that outdoor could be an

interesting area in which to work.



Curiously, though, she claims not to be nervous about the new task,

pointing out she can learn what she doesn’t already know.



One of her first tasks will be to blend the sales forces for Adshel,

More O’Ferrall - the billboard operation - and More Transit, and she’s

adamant that she won’t be going in wielding the axe that has left blood

on Blackfriars carpets in recent years.



’I probably understand how the team feels, having been through so many

changes myself. I will keep them fully informed at all times as much as

I possibly can,’ she says.



’It’s not all about cost-cutting. There is a team of 80 people and there

will continue to be 80 people, but if we find we need more, there will

be more.’



This is soothing talk, but France is definitely a picky boss and a

self-confessed perfectionist. ’I’m very critical,’ she admits.

’Inefficiency and laziness wind me up, but I am flexible.’



Part of her confidence in being able to do her new job lies in the fact

that she’s been working in an indisputably tough environment in recent

years.



As Britton puts it: ’The Express is not an easy sell, let’s face it.



If you have a product like the More Group’s, it can be a dream job.



’You are up against fewer competitors and the outdoor medium is arguably

a lot healthier than it ever was.’





THE FRANCE FILE

1977: Sunday Express, sales executive

1979: Nottingham Evening Post, sales executive

1982: Daily Express, Midlands sales executive

1982: IPC Specialist and Leisure Group, sales executive

1984: Sunday Express magazine, deputy advertisement manager

1988: Daily Express and Daily Star, advertisement manager

1992: Daily Express and Daily Star, advertisement controller

1995: Express group, deputy advertisement director

1998: More Group, sales director



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