MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON: ADVERTISING SALES - IPC’s initiative on group sales knocks down Chinese walls. The publishing group has broken the sales mantra. Alasdair Reid investigates

Big publishing groups seem to have an ambiguous attitude to advertising sales structures, especially when it comes to the relationship between individual titles and the group as a whole. For instance, it has always been an article of faith in the industry that internal competition is healthy.

Big publishing groups seem to have an ambiguous attitude to

advertising sales structures, especially when it comes to the

relationship between individual titles and the group as a whole. For

instance, it has always been an article of faith in the industry that

internal competition is healthy.



But with some companies, that philosophy is taken to extremes and starts

to be counterproductive. In the past, some magazine publishers have been

notoriously inept - and you could get ludicrously low rates by pitting

two titles against each other and watching while they scrapped it

out.



Some big newspaper publishers like News International seem to take a

cyclical approach to the question - as soon as they’ve established each

newspaper as an autonomous profit centre, they begin looking to return

to a more collegiate approach to sales.



TV companies deliver a wide spectrum of audiences but they don’t believe

in separating the sales of different demographic groups within their

inventories.



At the top there’s one sales director and one sales controller

responsible for the whole inventory, pulling the entire sales effort

together.



Magazines believe they are different. They have absolute faith in the

intimate relationship that exists between title and reader. You need a

very dedicated sales team to exploit that fully - and traditionally

there hasn’t been much room for another layer of sales management on

top.



Last week, IPC decided to have a go at challenging that tradition.

Georgina Crace, previously ad sales director of the company’s South Bank

Publishing Group, is to take on a group ad director role. She has been

handed the task of creating a unified IPC sales force with a clear

strategy to sell to new and existing clients.



Simple question. Will it work? Laura James, the press director at New

PHD, believes this is a very positive move. ’It will have a big internal

focus but the result should be a much more accessible and user-friendly

IPC. It will bring a much more co-ordinated approach to the ad sales

function. At the moment, there is no-one looking at the way they do

things across the total output. She will identify the key issues and

examine the sales culture. Now advertisers can access the sales

portfolio either individually or as a whole entity.’



But how many brands are able to take advantage of the whole IPC

portfolio?



Very few - but that’s missing the point according to press planners and

buyers. This will be about developing strategic partnerships. It’s not

just about individual advertising deals; and it might be a way of

bringing in new areas like masthead programming.



Richard Britton, the non-broadcast director of CIA Medianetwork, says:

’Advertisers and agencies will welcome opportunities to trade across all

of IPC’s sales divisions. For what are very sound business reasons, IPC

is split into separate profit centres. That obviously gets in the way of

selling across the group. The broad trend in media these days is about

bigger deals and better value.’



Which means discount? ’No. It may be a cliche now but it’s about the

great concern of the last few years - deriving added value.



Media owners have to give advertisers incentives to keep them

advertising and that isn’t just about discount. It’s about developing

new ways for advertisers to work with magazines and their readers.’



But Britton doesn’t agree with the notion that this can be a purely

managerial initiative. ’It would be a real danger if this were to be

merely a back office thing. She could end up spending her time sorting

out the problems of the sales teams on hundreds of titles which means,

as a consequence, she has no time to sell. I think that would be a

mistake. The business of an ad sales director is to sell.’



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