Jeremy Lee: It's time 'Charmless' Ed shows his true mettle at Channel 4

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 26 January 2012 08:00AM

Compared with Ben Allen, his opposite number at ITV, the incoming head of trading at Channel 4, Ed Chalmers, has been let off rather lightly on the nickname front.

Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee

OK, so "Charmless" might not be the most original or witty derivation of his surname, but it's meant largely affectionately, implying he can out-dour even the most miserable of Scots. And while both their nicknames are said to start with the letter "C", Chalmers can also take some solace in that his doesn't draw its inspiration from one of the coarser words in the Anglo-Saxon vernacular, unlike his ITV counterpart.

This also perhaps reflects the fact that, having spent his entire 18-year media career in radio, Chalmers hasn't really popped his head that far above the parapet to allow the rougher elements of the media buying community to put him under deeper psychological scrutiny.

Until now. Having taken the top negotiation job at Channel 4, Chalmers will find himself having more unpleasant conversations than he is probably used to. While Jonathan Allan, the Channel 4 sales director, will have taken some counsel from Gary Digby, who temporarily worked alongside Chalmers at Global Radio, it will be surprising if the new head of trading isn't known by a new, and perhaps harsher, epithet by the end of the year.

With the Channel 4 sales restructure almost complete (all elements are in place other than one of the heads of agency sales and the head of digital and partnership innovation) and memories of the employees who paid the ultimate price consigned to the "exceptional costs" section on the annual report, Allan has in place a team that he must hope will make the station future-proof.

What to make of it? Well, much like ITV's, it looks leaner, younger, cheaper and from a more diverse range of backgrounds. Does this make it a more interesting and dynamic place for agencies and advertisers to do business? Again, this is too early to tell but, given the upheaval, Channel 4's chief executive, David Abraham, can only hope so.

That is, of course, unless Abraham has already found his gaze distracted by news that the BBC has started an early and tentative search to find potential replacement candidates for the director-general, Mark Thompson.

Abraham has only been in the Channel 4 post a relatively short period of time, but those who have worked with him stress that his ambition is not yet sated and that this job would be his ultimate prize. And there's something quite compelling about having two former admen running Britain's two biggest broadcasters.

In the meantime, a period of stability and tangible evidence of what Channel 4's new sales strategy means to advertisers and agencies would be very welcome.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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