OPINION: Question time with ... Darren Khan - Rapture TV’s sales director has discovered his spiritual home, says Rachel Minter

Darren Khan may cut a youthful figure for a sales director on the board of a burgeoning music channel, but with 11 years’ media sales experience under his belt, the streetwise 29-year-old has learned to grow up fast.

Darren Khan may cut a youthful figure for a sales director on the

board of a burgeoning music channel, but with 11 years’ media sales

experience under his belt, the streetwise 29-year-old has learned to

grow up fast.



’The growing up bit happened before I started work,’ he confides. ’I

left school when I was 18 and enrolled as a summer worker in Camp

America, Cape Cod. Over six months I learned what work, education and

discipline were all about. I got paid dollars 30 a week to look after,

in many cases, abused children from deprived backgrounds. Some of the

kids had never seen farm animals before. They’d say, ’Hey, what’s that,’

pointing to a chicken. It was like something out of Ali G.’



When Khan came back to the ’real world’, as he calls it, Khan senior

gave his son a week to decide what he wanted to do with his life. After

an abortive stint as a sales assistant at Selfridges, his cousin Mark

Cranthorne, former managing director of Young & Rubicam, pointed him in

the right direction.



’I saw the life Mark was leading, the flashy cars and the nice house in

Highgate, and thought it would not be a bad industry to get into,’ says

Khan.



Alan Chiltern at Scottish Television provided Khan with his initial step

onto the sales ladder as a trainee sales assistant for regional Channel

4. He joined a week before the Christmas party in 1989. It was, he says,

like arriving in heaven. ’Free drinks, a bonus - what more could an

18-year-old want?’



Yet the ambitious sales executive was impatient to get on, so as soon as

his feet were under the table, he introduced himself to the TSMS sales

boys upstairs. ’One of them put in a good word for me with TSMS boss

Jill Kerslake, and she offered me a position at one of the slickest

sales outfits around.’



Part of that team included Clive Crouch, now at GMTV, and Emap’s Tom

Toumazis, both excellent people to learn from, assures Khan.



’Toumazis was very strict. He would grill you all the time as if you

were in a live negotiation process; he was so regimented that you

couldn’t get away with anything.’



But it wasn’t until Khan joined Rapture in 1997 that he found his

spiritual home. ’I used to be a massive clubber - we’re talking at least

three or four times a week. We even set up our own club night called

Megusta, with Smirnoff and Fosters as sponsors.’



Even so, he admits that upon joining Rapture, he sat down at his desk

and wondered what to do. ’I hadn’t spoken to a programmer in eight years

of working in the industry. I just sold ITV schedules. I never had to

question or analyse audience data, or think about how sponsorship and

promotions are closely linked with sales. It was absolutely terrifying,

but liberating at the same time.’



Now he deals with all these issues, plus internet opportunities,

programming and research, as well as airtime sales. As a result, he has

developed a much stronger relationship with agencies and now comes up

with a stream of creative sales ideas that reflect the values of

Rapture.



Having achieved so much in the last decade, you wonder what he’s lining

up for the next ten years.



’I could see myself developing the music arm of Rapture. Maybe going out

and setting up a record and video label run as an extension of the

Rapture brand. On second thoughts, I might opt for an early retirement

and play lots of golf.’





Khan on climbing the ladder fast



’Don’t stagnate or let yourself slip into a routine, even if you are not

required to use your creativity. Think of an alternative to the

blueprint at all times.’



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