MEDIA: HEADLINER; Sales supremo quits comfort zone to take the Express test

Can the ex-Telegraph star turn things around at the Express, John Owen asks

Can the ex-Telegraph star turn things around at the Express, John Owen


Andy Jonesco is not the kind of bloke to kid himself. Which is just as

well, really. Because his new job is going to be quite a challenge.

Last Friday was Jonesco’s last day as display sales director of the

Telegraph group. He is currently on holiday for two weeks and when he

returns he will take up what some would call the poisoned chalice of the

group ad director’s role at Express Newspapers (Campaign, 18 October).

An unfair description of this highly important post? Examine the facts.

Both the Daily and Sunday Express titles - now merged into one seven-day

operation - have been on the slide for years. The Express sells an

average 1.2 million a day, compared with the Daily Mail’s two million-


In the past three weeks, Express Newspapers has funded new magazines in

both the Saturday and Sunday titles as part of a claimed pounds 10

million investment designed to reverse the circulation decline and catch

up with the Mail.

Jonesco, however, is unaccustomed to playing catch-up publishing. Before

joining the market-leading Telegraph in 1987, he worked at the Radio

Times during the days of the old duopoly with the TV Times. Neither

could claim to be a difficult sell.

That said, two years at Today and the past three years of almost

incessant price war with the Times will have steeled Jonesco for the

battle ahead. John Ayling, the managing director of John Ayling and

Associates, the media agency which held the Telegraph account through

the heat of the circulation war, believes this experience will prove

invaluable. ‘The Telegraph has had as much competition on the

advertising and cover-price side as the Express,’ he says. What’s more:

‘Andy Jonesco is one of the outstanding press sales directors of his


This is not an uncommon view. Marc Mendoza, the media director of WCRS,

says of Jonesco: ‘As somebody to do business with, he’s a joy. If anyone

can turn the Express around from a sales point of view, he can.’

Nevertheless, Mendoza admits that Jonesco’s task is ‘enormous’. And

Ayling adds: ‘The success of any sales director is related to the

strength of the newspaper they are selling. This job will be very

different to selling the strengths of the Telegraph.’

And doesn’t Mike Ironside, the ad director of the Daily Mail, just know

it. A mate of Jonesco’s, he takes full advantage of the opportunity for

a good-natured dig at his new number-one rival. ‘It’s really good that

he’s gone to work for a paper with the same circulation,’ he smirks

about the move from the one-million-selling broadsheet to the struggling

tabloid. ‘There’s no point in stretching him too far at this stage in

his career.’

Ironside is well aware of Jonesco’s qualities. ‘He’s incredibly

straight, incredibly honourable, a great negotiator,’ he admits. But

there’s a sting in the tail: ‘His man-management skills, I’m not so sure

about.’ Len Sanderson, the managing director of Telegraph sales and the

man who nurtured Jonesco over his ten years there, rejects this. ‘Andy’s

impatient with people he regards as not putting in 100 per cent,’

Sanderson says. ‘But I don’t think that’s a criticism.’ Jonesco has been

described as ‘the Gary Lineker of the national press’. But, like

Lineker, you can be sure that Jonesco didn’t get where he is today

without having a mean streak.

Jonesco is a John Major supporter, a Tory wet, a man for Middle England.

He adores his wife and kids, does his share of the housework but still

finds time for the odd round of golf in the green fields of Beckenham. A

perfect fit, then, for the Express, but his demographic suitability for

the job is considerably less important than his ability to negotiate the

Express out of its current position at the foot of most press buyers’

media schedules.

Carolyn McCall, the ad director of the Guardian, backs Jonesco to give

the Mail a real run for its money. ‘They have changed things a lot

already editorially,’ she says. ‘What they need now is a very good sales

team to go out, communicate that and change buyers’ perceptions.’

The presence of Stephen Grabiner, who was until May the managing

director of the Telegraph, as the chief executive of Express Newspapers,

will have reassured Jonesco as he considered the job offer. Grabiner is

adamant that he and his boss, Lord Hollick, the chief executive of

Express Newspapers’ owner, United News and Media, are deadly serious

about turning the title’s fortunes around.

Clearly, the pair have convinced Jonesco. ‘The plans they have for the

future are attractive,’ he says. ‘The picture they have painted is one I

very much want to be involved in.’

So there is hope. No more than that. And no kidding.

The Jonesco file

1981 Radio Times, sales executive

1984 Daily Mail, group head

1985 Today, group head

1987 Telegraph, group head

1995 Telegraph, display sales director

1996 Express Newspapers, sales director


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