Caroline Hughes has a recurring nightmare. There are only hours to
go before her wedding and she’s forgotten to buy a dress.
Her mother tells her not to fret and whips out some white sheets from
the airing cupboard. Ma Hughes then sets about wrapping the sheets
around her panic-stricken daughter, armed - in classic Blue Peter
fashion - with nothing more than a roll of doubled-sided sticky
At this point, Hughes junior wakes up in a cold sweat, relieved to find
she does, in fact, own a real wedding dress. Freeserve’s advertising
sales director has a busy summer ahead of her. She is in the process of
organising her August wedding for 140 guests - ’my mother has waited for
this day all her life’ - at the same time as finding 30 staff to take
over ad sales for the UK’s biggest ISP.
The 32-year-old, who joined Freeserve at the start of the year, began by
talking to DoubleClick about expanding the sales house’s Freeserve
However, the portal has been growing rapidly. It has more than 240
content agreements and houses 150 sites. It dawned on Hughes that
DoubleClick would need to double in size to handle Freeserve the way she
wanted and she realised she would be better off bringing ad sales
’We just outgrew DoubleClick,’ explains Hughes. ’The scale of Freeserve
is now so broad that Eric (Stein, DoubleClick’s managing director) and I
would have spent practically all our time managing the
At the moment, Hughes’s days are taken up with interviewing prospective
candidates. A few names are tentatively scribbled in pencil next to job
roles on the diagram of her dream team. She has found a head of agency
sales but is still missing two sales managers, a sponsorship manager,
someone to sell Freeserve’s women’s portal iCircle, another to sell its
business and finance site and a ’sales evangelist’ to preach to agencies
about what Freeserve is doing with emerging technologies like WAP. And
that’s just for starters.
The idea is to stop agency planners and advertisers thinking of
Freeserve as merely one site and to push its women’s, careers, money or
business platforms as portals in their own right.
Dedicated sales people will sell their own site and offer packages
across a variety of Freeserve portals. ’For example, advertisers can
reach women through the money page of iCircle and buy space in the
financial area of our shopping site as well as on the financial site and
the homepage,’ explains Hughes.
It is interesting to discover that only two years ago, Hughes
reluctantly took on a project to assess whether the new-fangled concept
of selling advertising on the internet could be a viable
Hughes had moved from Universal McCann Worldwide, where she worked on
the Coca-Cola account, to take a job in Granada’s commercial enterprises
department. In the new role, she was responsible for developing
advertising opportunities across Granada’s companies. These ranged from
product sampling at Forte hotels to the international bartering of
Granada programming and the internet.
The web thing took off and Hughes found herself at the sales helm of
Granada Media Interactive, in charge of generating revenue for ITV’s
Formula 1 website and its entertainment channels. Then the phone rang
with a tempting offer from Freeserve.
’The internet was still considered geeky in those days,’ Hughes
’I hated it. I remember saying ’Me? Work on the internet? I don’t even
know how to turn on my computer!’.’ She then admits: ’Sometimes I still