Corporate sales just won’t work if titles vie with each other, Alasdair
Few were surprised when Charlotte Stockting, who joined Conde Nast two
years ago as its first corporate sales and marketing director, left the
group last week (Campaign, 1 December).
Her theoretical place was somewhere above publisher level. But the
reality was that the publishers were on the board, she wasn’t, and as
long as they had the most power they weren’t going to let her encroach on
their sales territories.
But then that’s always going to be an occupational hazard for the
corporate sales director of a big magazine group. The role involves
selling the whole portfolio of titles both to clients and advertisers -
offering extra discounts to advertisers who use a range of the titles.
It also involves co-ordinating the efforts of individual sales teams to
make sure that they don’t put inter-magazine rivalry before the
interests of the company as a whole.
According to Neil Jones, a director of TMD Carat, it makes obvious
sense. ‘It saves time talking to one person,’ he points out. ‘And that’s
especially the case when it has already been decided to use a number of
the company’s titles.’
Unfortunately, magazine groups pride themselves on their titles being
strong, individual brands. That almost inevitably leads to problems.
Hilary Taylor, a director of Manning Gottlieb Media, explains: ‘Some
publishers value internal rivalries between titles. Some companies see
that as a higher priority than corporate sales.’
All of the big groups pay lip service, at least, to the idea of
corporate sales - rumours abound that Emap is about to follow suit. But
the National Magazine Company is the only one that has got it right so
far. It evolved the role slowly, using internal expertise rather than
bringing in an outsider.
Should Conde Nast replace Stockting? Should other publishers try to copy
NatMags? Or do some companies just not have the sort of culture in which
corporate sales will work? Does it matter?
Most buyers think that it does - magazines can benefit enormously from
taking a more measured view of their sales efforts. But the initiative
has to have unwavering commitment from the top.
As one buyer puts it: ‘Conde Nast especially is missing a trick here.
You wouldn’t believe how aggressively some of its titles pitch against
each other. I don’t know who would want to take the role now, though.
The only way it will work is if Nicholas Coleridge [Conde Nast’s
managing director] gets his publishers into his office and knocks a few