Before I was old enough to know myself better, I tried to find work
At the interview, the managing director handed me a pencil. ’Sell this to
me,’ he said, with a mischievous smile.
I took the pencil from his hand, thought for a moment and then began a
short spiel that was little more than a plea for his charity.
It lasted about 30 seconds and was embarrassing. Needless to say, I didn’t
get the job and the sales world has managed without my talents to this
I have no illusions about my ability as a salesman and the fact that I now
know on which side of the publishing divide I fall, so to speak, is
probably a good thing.
But I can’t help thinking that if I had been asked to sell something a
little more stimulating I might have fared better. How interesting is a
It would have been different had he said: ’I have a young Dutch niece who
is over for the weekend and she wants someone to show her the town on
Saturday. What would you do to make sure she enjoys herself?’
For me, motivation comes from predictable sources - pencils are not among
them. But what of magazine sales people: how interested are they in the
subject matter they sell against? Or are they all only selling proverbial
pencils? Sales people who work on mainstream titles might not be relevant,
but consider those on titles with a more specific niche - such as, say,
Caged and Aviary Birds or World of Bowls. To what extent are they
indulging a passion for a favourite subject?
Are there foot fetishists on Shoe and Leather News, frustrated urban
planners on Town Centre and dedicated twitchers on Birdwatching who are
ready to leave the office at even the hint that a new species of
chiffchaff might have been sighted?
What about Off Licence News? Or Time (the national newspaper for
prisoners)? Does anybody at all work on Wanderlust?
Joking apart, many magazine sales people do appear to have a keen interest
in their subjects. Take Kate Lowe, associate publisher on Conde Nast
Traveller, for example.
’I am just off to Sri Lanka,’ she admits. ’I was inspired by a piece that
we ran in January.’
Lowe, whose last jaunt was to Mauritius, believes different kinds of
people are attracted to different titles.
’People on this magazine become very conscious of using every scrap of
free time to travel,’ she says. ’Our office diary reads like a roll-call
for the Marie Celeste. Someone is just back from Oman, another from
Amsterdam. We think travel is important, but we’re all dressed like
urchins as a result.’
Lowe adds: ’I did four years on Vogue and I knew everything there was to
know about nail polish, hair and how high your skirt should be. If I were
on Creative Butcher magazine I would probably develop a great love of
pork. It helps if you are the sort of sales person who gets passionate
about what you sell.’
It may be easy to get interested in your subject if you work on that
title, but it is not just at the glamorous titles that people seem to
relate heavily to their subject areas. Nigel Hughes is the ad manager on
Total Carp magazine and he tells a similar tale to that of Lowe.
’We do all have a fascination for carp,’ he admits. ’Working on the
magazine certainly feeds your enthusiasm.’
For some, the job came first and the interest in the subject matter only
evolved once they were surrounded by it.
Like Hughes, Simon Temlett is ad manager on a title that does not enjoy
the glamour of, say, Vogue or Arena. He sells for Practical Caravan
’No one here is a caravanner,’ he says emphatically. ’But there is a lot
of affection for the industry.’
Temlett does admit, however, that it is growing on him. ’People with
caravans are very enthusiastic,’ he says. ’There are a lot of rallies and
barbecues. I have been here for two years and would never have thought of
going on a caravanning holiday before. If I had the opportunity now, I
might do it.’
Some sales people have chosen their jobs specifically because doing so
allows them to indulge their love of the subject area. Charlie Woolf is
senior ad manager on Max Power magazine, a title about cars and, more
specifically, performance tuning, which means making your vehicle unique
in both how it looks and how it drives.
Woolf says she has always been a tomboy, enjoying boys’ stuff such as cars
and football. Like many of her colleagues, she moved to the magazine to
indulge that passion.
Woolf says: ’We have more girls than boys and most are into the cars and
performance tuning. I used to have a VW Beetle - I had just started to do
it up when I crashed it.
’I used to work on a photographic magazine,’ she adds. ’Although the
industry was good, I wasn’t really into photography. I joined this
magazine because I was interested in the subject.
’Everyone has a dream and it’s good if you can work in an area that is
connected to it. If people enjoy the subject, it certainly keeps staff
Similar examples crop up all over the magazine sector. Water Gardener ad
executive Nicole Smith says she is ’interested in but not obsessive’ about
the area, but concedes that her interest ’has certainly grown since I
started working here’.
Tim Woodward, ad manager at fetish magazine Skin Two, is another example
of someone who wouldn’t do anything else. ’It’s very much part of my
life,’ he says. ’I live in hope that Helen Mirren will walk in with a coil
of rope and say ’take me, big boy’. Sadly, I think she’s happily
And then there’s Anne Nash, ad manager at Prediction, IPC’s astrology and
tarot magazine. Her subject is so close to her heart that it’s ’more of a
lifestyle choice than a hobby’.
’I am absolutely into it,’ Nash says. ’Astrology is part of the whole
mystical and magical scene. I do a lot of healing work with sacred sounds
and crystal bowls. This dovetails nicely with Prediction. A lot of the
advertisers are quite small companies, so it helps them to deal with
someone who understands what they’re talking about.’
So does all this mean that anyone who has no passion for their subject
should be looking to work on a more suitable title? Or is there a passion
for magazine advertising sales itself, which can only see true expression
in an environment that is uncluttered by an emotional link with the
David Thorpe, who has been ad manager on Bowls International for 12 years,
might argue that case, for he seems immune to the bug his readers have
’The more I see of bowls, the surer I am it doesn’t appeal to me,’ he
admits. ’I feel I know a lot about it - the way the bowls perform on
different greens, for example - but it’s really not for me.
’Still, I’ve only been here 12 years; maybe in another 12 I will be into
it!’ he laughs.
So is his a higher calling, a purer form of sales?
’I think there is something in that,’ Thorpe says. ’For example, there are
many manufacturers who make bowls and want to advertise with us. Since I
don’t play, I can’t be biased.’
There does seem to be some logic to Thorpe’s argument. Nevertheless, given
the choice between being absolutely even-handed with pencil advertisers
and over-servicing clients who have young Dutch nieces, I know which I
HOW ENTHUSIASM HELPS IN THE BATTLE FOR CLIENTS
Colin Taylor, ad manager at Military Modelling, explains why his current
position is his dream job.
’I took the job here because I wanted to work on the titles in the group -
Military Modelling, Regiment and Scale Models International. I was into it
already and knew a lot of the clients before I started here. Whether you
collect military vehicles, stage battle re-enactments, make models of
ships or planes, collect uniforms or perform period war dramas, there’s a
lot of crossover.
’My thing is the second world war. One of the things we do is make our own
comedy dramas, a bit like Dad’s Army. There are about 30 of us and we call
ourselves the Barmy Army Film Club. I act and I’m also cameraman.
’I collect military and other vehicles from the same period. I have a 1942
Ford Jeep and an Austin Eight. The military vehicle movement is great -
everyone is really friendly. You can buy anything from bikes to tanks; you
can even go on a course to learn how to drive a tracked vehicle and get a
licence. It’s all about nostalgia really - a lot of ex-national service
chaps get involved. They go to exhibitions such as the War & Peace Show in
July, where they have about 3,500 military vehicles.
’As I am an enthusiast, I’m in a strong position when I talk to
It takes a lot to get accepted in this world - the clients used to try to
catch me out, but they don’t bother any more. I go to a lot of the
modelling shows and the militaria shows where they sell everything from
camouflage netting to buttons, helmets and ammunition boxes. Getting paid
to go along and talk to people is marvellous.
’You would think the stuff on the market has been knocking around for
years, but the Ministry of Defence keeps releasing new products. There are
warehouses of stuff around the country. Some gets shipped to the
developing world and some goes to dealers, ending up in the hands of
collectors such as some of our readers.’