Andy Hawkins has Gold in his sights at Granada Sky, Anne-Marie Crawford
‘Write something nice about me won’t you?’ is the parting shot from Andy
Hawkins as we leave Soho’s Mezzo Cafe and head our separate ways into a
rainy London morning.
In truth, it would be difficult to do anything else. Having spent a
couple of hours on the phone before our meeting, half-heartedly trying
to dig some dirt on the affable ex-sales director of Atlantic 252, all I
could come up with was the following from one unattributable source: ‘He
likes red wine and he likes a good lunch.’
Well, if that’s a vice then we’re all damned.
Given that this was the week Hawkins was picked as sales director for
the new Granada Sky Broadcasting satellite operation, you can bet he’ll
be cracking open a few bottles of his best Bordeaux.
At first glance, Hawkins may appear an odd choice for a job in TV.
Rather than the sharp-suited, gym-fit, rugged executive-type, he is a
roundish, almost cuddly figure, with a ruddy complexion, big beard and
expressive brown eyes. He looks much older than his 33 years - a
testament to years of fine wines no doubt.
He is approachable and likeable and he laughs a lot. But from time to
time, the twinkle in the eye fades and a serious look steals over his
Tudoresque face, as it does when I ask him who on earth is going to want
to watch a satellite channel full of repeats - which is what the Granada
Sky Broadcasting flagship Gold channel promises to be - when there are
enough re-runs on terrestrial TV?
Hawkins is ready for this one. ‘Mick Desmond - the chief executive of
Laser Sales - told me that more people watch Coronation Street than are
in full-time employment and as far as I know, Coronation Street has
never been repeated. And it won’t happen yet, but there’ll be repeats of
Cracker, Prime Suspect, the Jewel in the Crown...Granada and LWT have
the reputation for being the best providers of quality ITV programming.’
Apart from the flagship Granada Gold station, Hawkins and his unnamed
team of 25 will be selling across seven other tightly themed channels.
But the Gold station is the hungry engine that will drive the whole
Granada Sky machine and it will be stoked by ratings. Is Hawkins up to
This man has been steeped in radio for the past ten years and as far as
most people in the industry are concerned, he is Mr Atlantic 252.
Perhaps such a pedigree is what led one unnamed agency source to
comment: ‘I wonder how long Andy Hawkins won’t be selling radio for?’
Hawkins himself looks genuinely puzzled by the comment. He is aware
there may be some hostility to his appointment, but is used to taking an
outsider’s role and turning it to his advantage.
When he first started selling Atlantic for the Radio Sales Company in
1991, before the station had its own in-house sales team, the brand was
regarded as a pirate station and worse. ‘There were even rumours that it
was part funded by the IRA,’ Hawkins recalls. Moreover, the market was
highly competitive: the FM stations were getting sorted while Atlantic
was on long wave and covered just two thirds of the country.
Today, Atlantic is a respectable brand name and revenue has gone through
the roof. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s head of radio, Denise Perry,
believes much of this is due to Hawkins: ‘Atlantic is very successful
and it has an amazing profile. Yet Andy sold it despite the fact that
not everyone had access to the product.’
Perry believes this is the key to his appointment. ‘In a multi-channel
satellite environment, you need a salesman rather than a TV boffin.
Remember, not everyone will have access to satellite.’
Hawkins expects it to be tough - part of his brief is to take money from
other media budgets, such as radio, so perhaps there’ll be fewer of his
old industry contacts wanting to have lunch with him.
But he also wants to change perceptions of the satellite TV sell. ‘I
think there’s a real gap for a strong sales-led operation. Some agencies
have had problems with service and levels of back-up when dealing with
satellite TV. I want to deliver good service and make Granada Sky
Broadcasting a place where people want to do business.’
To some extent, Hawkins will be operating within a familiar environment
when he takes the helm at Granada Sky - namely, a fiercely competitive
marketplace. It will just be bigger, with larger amounts of cash at
stake. What salesman could resist such a challenge?
The Hawkins file
1983 Lloyds of London, junior underwriter
1986 Independent Radio Sales, sales executive
1988 IRS, regional sales manager
1989 IRS, regional sales director
1991 Radio Sales Company, sales director
1993 Atlantic 252, sales director
1995 Atlantic 252, commercial director
1996 Granada Sky Broadcasting, sales director