Media: A Moment with Marquis

The demise of Julie France, the former managing director of Clear Channel UK, is a parable for our times.

For one thing, it shows the outdoor medium in a distinctly unattractive light. Just as its commission practices are coming under increasing scrutiny and when ISBA is calling for its members to sign up to a new outdoor auditing initiative, one of the medium's most popular and well-regarded sales bosses has fallen on her sword. Outdoor does not usually mess up like this.

And how easy it is today - and how we all sympathise - to press the "send" button on an e-mail and then immediately realise the hideous error we have made. Some years ago, a colleague rattled off a highly insulting diatribe (complete with the "c" word) against a stubborn client - for internal consumption, of course - but managed to copy in the object of his hate as well. He never recovered and nor, now I think about it, did the account.

Whatever happened in the France case, some incendiary pricing information fell into the wrong hands and she, it seems, has had to take the rap.

I'm all for taking responsibility - God knows there is little enough nowadays and, with our slippery politicians in a state of permanent blamelessness, is it any wonder? But the end of France does seem to be a particularly wasteful sacrifice. Outdoor needs people like her rather more, one suspects, than they need outdoor. Clear Channel, in particular, can little afford to lose good top people, having parted with the ebullient Stevie Spring only months ago, leaving a management vacuum that the market has not failed to notice.

Was it so completely impossible to find a resolution and keep France on? Is inadvertent e-mailing truly a capital offence?

Most puzzling to me is that there should be any surprise or indignation that Clear Channel's prices were different, one customer from another.

I believe that is called the free market and since when did we not uphold that? There is not one media owner (at least I hope there is not) that does not discriminate between customers with its prices.

It's what makes the world go round.

If I were the agency with the worst prices, I would stop whingeing, think myself lucky to have stumbled across a piece of valuable market intelligence and get my act together.

If I were Clear Channel, I would offer profuse apologies all round but respectfully defend my position.

If I were France, well, perhaps I would be feeling I was better off out of it - and perhaps brushing up my e-mail technique.

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