ITV Sales' Mr Cautious sends old-style fatboys packing

Justin Sampson is leaving the RAB for a new challenge with ITV, Jeremy Lee reports

Does Graham Duff, the managing director of ITV Sales, realise quite the enormity of what he has done?

By appointing Justin Sampson, currently the managing director of the Radio Advertising Bureau, to the new touchy-feely role of customer relationship marketing director at ITV Sales, he seems to have consigned the good old, bad old days to history.

Few will shed many tears for most of the corpulent old-timers Sampson will supersede (although perhaps some of their sparkle will be missed). The message from Duff couldn't have been clearer -- he meant business when he said this was a new-look ITV Sales.

With floppy hair, fawn-coloured moleskins and a quiet and considered manner, Sampson is about as far from the traditional florid-faced, braying ITV sales fatboy as you can get.

Anyone expecting a barrel of laughs and an oily smile from ITV's new glad-hander is likely to be disappointed. Sampson, 37, is Mr Case Study, Mr Research and, for the time being at least, Mr Cautious.

Still working for the RAB, Sampson politely refuses to reveal anything about his new job at ITV Sales -- this is a shame because his recruitment was the culmination of a process that left much blood on the carpet over at 200 Gray's Inn Road, wherein lies the juicy stuff.

But what he will confirm is that he was looking for a new job when the CRM position became available. "I had been looking for a fresh challenge - I first said to Douglas [McArthur, the RAB's chief executive] in the summer of last year that I wasn't sure whether, long term, I was still in the best place at the RAB," Sampson says.

Ever cautious, he quickly adds that it wasn't unhappiness that drove him to look elsewhere -- in fact, he says leaving is a bittersweet experience -- but that he wanted a fresh challenge. Handy for him, then, that the CRM job came up and, after a three-and-a-half-hour interview, he defeated numerous internal candidates.

With Sampson's 12 years’ experience at the RAB, even Duff's rivals concede that he has pulled off a masterstroke in getting him to join ITV Sales. They will find themselves working increasingly closely with Sampson as he takes a key role in the nascent TV marketing group collective.

Sampson was a founder director of the RAB and his time there saw the medium grow its share of net advertising revenue from 2% to more than 7%.

He gained plaudits for the way in which, in his own quiet way, he improved the perception of radio through the creation of case studies and research projects and stronger ties to creative agencies.

Colleagues from the world of radio describe him as rather staid -- certainly, he is measured and rather dry.

For example, he says that his proudest achievement at the RAB is the successful launch of Jet (an end-to-end, paper-free accountability system). Now, how many of the old-school ITV sales boys would you have found to say something similar about TV? Similarly, he enthuses about what he learnt at a "social systems workshop" he attended while at Wharton Business School.

Acquaintances argue that Sampson isn't without a sense of humour -- it's just very dry and displayed on few occasions, particularly after he's had a few drinks.

While Sampson is unwilling to talk about the new job, Duff is rather more expansive. He describes the CRM role as a completely new one. "There hasn't been anything in the recent history of ITV like it," he says.

In the old days, you would have expected it to be one of the cushiest numbers about. You know the sort of thing: a few rounds of golf with your workmates, an agreeable and late lunch with a friendly client and back to the office to plan the next jolly.

Not now, though -- Duff says that the role encompasses client-and advertiser-facing teams and business-to-business marketing. He says Sampson will also be expected "to make the ITV experience more productive and make every aspect of the company more customer-centric".

Honourable intentions indeed, but also conveniently fluffy. Not so, Duff says. "The clearest quantification will be the perception model."

With so many years spent marketing radio, you might think that there may be a problem making the transition to TV. No again, Duff says: "I wouldn't have given him the job if I thought that there was a problem." But Sampson concedes that he will initially spend much of his time at ITV Sales listening.

So that's the ITV Sales executive board completed. Duff leads a team consisting of the sales director, Gary Digby; the knowledge management director, Andy Bagnall; the operation director, Jill Kerslake; the cinema director, Debbie Chalet, and now Sampson. What it lacks in sparkle it makes up for in gravitas.

The Sampson file

1990 Independent Radio Sales, marketing executive

1992 Independent Radio Sales, marketing manager

1992 Radio Advertising Bureau, strategic planner

1996 Radio Advertising Bureau, operations director

1999 Radio Advertising Bureau, managing director

2004 ITV Sales, customer relationship marketing director

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