LIVING FOR WORK - Do you have to be a baked bean fiend to sell space in Heinz’ customer magazine? Or is enthusiasm for media sales enough? Ed Shelton asks the questions

Before I was old enough to know myself better, I tried to find work in sales.

Before I was old enough to know myself better, I tried to find work

in sales.

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

turnover down.’

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

subject matter?

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

would choose.


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.’


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