MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON; CORPORATE SALES: Should publishers let internal rivalries interfere with sales?

Corporate sales just won’t work if titles vie with each other, Alasdair Reid writes

Corporate sales just won’t work if titles vie with each other, Alasdair

Reid writes



Few were surprised when Charlotte Stockting, who joined Conde Nast two

years ago as its first corporate sales and marketing director, left the

group last week (Campaign, 1 December).



Her theoretical place was somewhere above publisher level. But the

reality was that the publishers were on the board, she wasn’t, and as

long as they had the most power they weren’t going to let her encroach on

their sales territories.



But then that’s always going to be an occupational hazard for the

corporate sales director of a big magazine group. The role involves

selling the whole portfolio of titles both to clients and advertisers -

offering extra discounts to advertisers who use a range of the titles.

It also involves co-ordinating the efforts of individual sales teams to

make sure that they don’t put inter-magazine rivalry before the

interests of the company as a whole.



According to Neil Jones, a director of TMD Carat, it makes obvious

sense. ‘It saves time talking to one person,’ he points out. ‘And that’s

especially the case when it has already been decided to use a number of

the company’s titles.’



Unfortunately, magazine groups pride themselves on their titles being

strong, individual brands. That almost inevitably leads to problems.

Hilary Taylor, a director of Manning Gottlieb Media, explains: ‘Some

publishers value internal rivalries between titles. Some companies see

that as a higher priority than corporate sales.’



All of the big groups pay lip service, at least, to the idea of

corporate sales - rumours abound that Emap is about to follow suit. But

the National Magazine Company is the only one that has got it right so

far. It evolved the role slowly, using internal expertise rather than

bringing in an outsider.



Should Conde Nast replace Stockting? Should other publishers try to copy

NatMags? Or do some companies just not have the sort of culture in which

corporate sales will work? Does it matter?



Most buyers think that it does - magazines can benefit enormously from

taking a more measured view of their sales efforts. But the initiative

has to have unwavering commitment from the top.



As one buyer puts it: ‘Conde Nast especially is missing a trick here.

You wouldn’t believe how aggressively some of its titles pitch against

each other. I don’t know who would want to take the role now, though.

The only way it will work is if Nicholas Coleridge [Conde Nast’s

managing director] gets his publishers into his office and knocks a few

heads together.’



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