OPINION: QUESTION TIME WITH ... Michelle Nelan - Conde Nast’s new head of contract sales loves the good life. By Mark Tungate

One expects Conde Nast to bring a touch of class to everything it does, and its new contract publishing division is no exception. Sales director Michelle Nelan is the perfect ambassador for the unit - raven haired, sophisticated and as unruffled as the pashmina draped over her shoulders.

One expects Conde Nast to bring a touch of class to everything it

does, and its new contract publishing division is no exception. Sales

director Michelle Nelan is the perfect ambassador for the unit - raven

haired, sophisticated and as unruffled as the pashmina draped over her

shoulders.



Not that Nelan is some glacial society figure. In fact, she is quite

capable of laughing at herself and says her main motivation in life is

’having an incredibly good time’.



She certainly seems to have managed that so far, having spent a large

proportion of her career flitting around the glamorous advertising and

fashion circuits. She hints at a decadent youth, joking that she has

been ’courted by captains of industry’.



Now she is the sole member of the contract publishing sales team,

although she intends to recruit two more people to work on the

operation’s Canary Wharf and HSBC magazines.



Nelan denies that customer titles are a bit of a step down from

Vogue.



’These magazines are as far removed from the unsexy side of contract

publishing as you can imagine. They are spectacular,’ she enthuses.

’Don’t forget, we have the syndication rights to articles in all the

company’s magazines, plus access to an enormous archive of words and

pictures.’



Nelan broke into media in the early 80s when she spotted an ad in a free

magazine (’I think it was Girl About Town’) asking for a media

assistant.



She rang the number, discovered it was wrong, and immediately got on to

the magazine to ask for the right one. When she finally got through to

TBWA, she discovered she was the only person who’d replied to the

ad.



’Mike Ironside, who was media director, was so impressed by my ingenuity

that he practically gave me a job on the spot,’ she chuckles.



After TBWA, she moved on to Saatchi & Saatchi. This was the era of Tim

Bell and the Conservative Party account. ’It was a wonderful time to be

in advertising. Looking back, the emphasis seemed to be more on the

creative side, rather than media, which has definitely come to the fore

now.’



Eventually, lured by ’the glamour of magazines’, Nelan joined She as a

sales executive, later moving to Cosmopolitan. ’I felt pretty confident,

because I’d worked on the other side and was prepared for the abysmal

way media people treated sales reps.’



After deserting Cosmo for Vogue - where she did a six-month stint in

Australia - she returned to the National Magazine Company to become head

of fashion sales on Esquire and Harpers & Queen. ’It was every bit as Ab

Fab as you’d expect,’ she confirms. But she had fond recollections of

her time at Conde Nast, and was happy to return when the opportunity

came up.



’If you work in the affluent market and you believe in quality,

commitment and professionalism, this is the place to be,’ she says, and

you believe her, despite the fact that the company’s PR representative

is sitting at her elbow.



Nelan is probably right when she says the contract publishing unit is

unlikely to be anything other than a success. ’It won’t stop with these

two magazines. Vogue is an international brand that has natural synergy

with blue-chip firms.’



One thing is for sure - advertisers can’t fail to be won over by Nelan’s

enthusiasm and poise.





Nelan on career planning



’I’ve been just as happy to move laterally as upwards. I haven’t planned

my career around money or titles, but around variety and fun, and I like

people who’ve done the same. I look for people who have something

different to offer. They have to be positive about life, with lots of

energy.’



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