NEWS ANALYSIS: Fickle territory of outsourced sales can give abundant yield - What are the advantages of hiring sales representation agencies, asks Jason Deign?

Private Eye’s recent switch of sales representation agency (Media Business, 25 April) begs the question: why not just do it inhouse?

Private Eye’s recent switch of sales representation agency (Media

Business, 25 April) begs the question: why not just do it inhouse?

Unsurprisingly, the sales agencies themselves point to a host of reasons

why outsourcing makes sense for many titles.

Tom Glenister, group account manager at Madison Bell, the company that

lost Private Eye to the Communications Team, says sales agencies can be

useful for publications that need a team fast.

’If you are Emap or IPC, you’ve got the people to move around,’ he


’But if you are a small or medium-sized publisher and want to launch

now, you don’t have enough staff to move quickly.’

He cites the example of Wipe, a parenting magazine that came to the

agency in November with a December launch date. ’We have trained sales

people - all they need is a media pack and they’re away,’ he says.

Glenister also says his agency is cost-effective as it works on a

commission basis and does not charge retainers - although this is not

necessarily the case with others.

Another strength claimed by the representation agencies is the ability

to sell independent publications as part of a portfolio.

Madison Bell has been able to cross-sell the RSPCA children’s

publication Animal Action to advertisers who have been attracted by the

agency’s DC Thomson titles, which include The Beano and The Dandy.

Christine Elder, production manager for Animal Action, swears by the

agency. ’It’s perfect for us - it’s the most cost-effective solution,’

she says. ’Unless things alter tremendously, I don’t think we will


I think we’ll probably continue to outsource because children’s

advertising is a tough market and I don’t think anyone inhouse could

make a go of it.’

Elsewhere, however, there are mixed feelings about using sales


Feng Shui for Modern Living publisher Stephen Skinner, who has used

various agencies, says: ’One was very good at selling ads but very bad

at passing on the money. Another promised a great deal and delivered


He has just brought ad sales for Feng Shui inhouse after outsourcing

them for six months - and says the results achieved by a ’scratch team’

are 25 per cent better than the best month attained through the


’Collection arrangements have to be sorted out,’ he concludes. ’Some

sales representation agencies can sell better than an inhouse team - but

our current view is that inhouse is better.’

On balance, the argument seems to be one of horses for courses. Many

publishers, particularly independent ones, might have recourse for a

sales representation agency at some stage.

And some, such as DC Thomson, even use a combination of inhouse and

outsourced teams. Private Eye used sell inhouse before signing up

Madison Bell in 1998.

The fact that the title has opted to keep outsourcing its sales through

the Communications Team seems to indicate that, whatever their merits,

representation agencies will be around for some time


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