OPINION: QUESTION TIME WITH ... Carl White - 24/7’s managing director won’t pine for White City, Mark Tungate discovers

Carl White, the new managing director of 24/7, freely admits that moving from the BBC to one of the UK’s biggest online sales outfits was like emerging from a sedate side road onto an autobahn.

Carl White, the new managing director of 24/7, freely admits that

moving from the BBC to one of the UK’s biggest online sales outfits was

like emerging from a sedate side road onto an autobahn.



’At the BBC you couldn’t do anything without consulting 50 different

committees, which made the pace of change extremely slow. Here, you have

an idea and ten minutes later it’s agreed.’



After sales stints on Money Marketing, the late unlamented Journalists’

Week and Gruner & Jahr’s Best, White worked on BBC magazines for eight

years - initially at contract publisher Redwood, and then at BBC

Worldwide.



Products like Good Food, Top Gear, BBC Wildlife and Walking with

Dinosaurs all fell under his remit. He was working on the launch of a

weekly news magazine when he was approached by Gordon Simpson, 24/7’s

CEO.



’I was interested immediately. My only reservation was that I was

halfway through studying for an MBA, and I realised that if I was going

to do this job properly - and have a life - I’d have to put that on

hold. In the end, that’s what I decided to do.’



One wonders whether White would have stayed at BBC Worldwide if the news

magazine project had got off the ground - but he hints that it is mired

in the usual round of committee meetings.



White won’t miss ’working under the A40’ at White City. Neither will he

pine for the BBC’s ubiquitous planning and resources department, which

he blames for the organisation’s sluggishness. He is hoping

director-general Greg Dyke will ’take a hammer to’ the department in the

coming months.



White says he’s finding the youth and vigour of web sales ’extremely

refreshing’. ’It’s open, it’s straightforward, there’s no messing

about.



Of course, the industry in general has more consultants than Dyke could

shake a stick at - but the sales side doesn’t.’



And surely he was attracted by the financial opportunities offered by

the online sales sector? Won’t he make a mint when 24/7 floats? White

answers carefully. ’I don’t think the industry is as lucrative as it is

portrayed in the national press. It’s not a licence to print money. On

the other hand, if you have traditional media skills that are

transferable, there’s a good living to be made.’



There has been no-one at the helm of 24/7 since Tanya Pein’s departure

six months ago (Media Business, 15 November). However, with sales

directors Mark Nall and Griselda Billington holding the fort, the

company has hardly been rudderless. White initially feared there might

be some defensiveness on their part, but it appears the directors accept

that the company will benefit from a senior figure who can look beyond

the day-to-day business of clinching deals.



White says his most urgent task is to ensure that the ’levels of

customer service keep pace with the expansion of the business’, and he’s

bolstering the sales co-ordination team to make it more agency

focused.



He’s also recruiting a head of client sales to handle the increasing

number of sponsorship opportunities. ’And after that, it’s just a case

of sitting down and deciding how many extra sales people we’re going to

need.’





White on new-media rivalry



One thing White doesn’t want to do is become involved in any backbiting

with 24/7’s rivals. He says: ’Our job is to sell space online, rather

than to get too competitive with DoubleClick and Real Media. We all have

very different images and positions in the market and we all have our

part to play in building the online industry.’