News Group kills off marketing director position

News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun and the News of the World, has axed the role of marketing director just nine months after hiring Belinda Furneaux-Harris.

Richard Webb, the News Group general manager, has taken over responsibility for the group's marketing department. Furneaux-Harris is expected to leave the company.

She joined News Group in September, ending a nine-month search for a permanent marketing chief following the departure of Nick Canning to the food chain Iceland. Before joining News Group, Furneaux-Harris had a three-year spell as the marketing services director at Barclays.

In the position of marketing director at News Group, she was charged with developing innovative, cost-effective promotions that would translate into an immediate sales gain.

However, sales of The Sun were their lowest in 30 years by the end of 2003 at less than 3.3 million. Its February sale was up to 3.4 million, but still down 3 per cent year on year. February sales of the News of the World were up by 0.5 per cent to 3.95 million.

Furneaux-Harris worked for HSBC between 1994 and 1998, rising to the position of head of marketing communications. When it rebranded globally from Midland to HSBC, she was appointed to handle the £22 million marketing programme.

TBWA\London is the News Group creative agency, while TBWA\GGT London handles the bulk of its below-the-line work.

The axing of the marketing director role at News Group follows a similar decision at its rival Mirror Group Newspapers, where the general manager, Ellis Watson, recently abandoned his search for a marketing director and took responsibility himself. Senior management's direct involvement with marketing comes at a time when most red-top newspapers are struggling to reverse sales declines.

A spokeswoman for News Group confirmed Furneaux-Harris was no longer involved with the marketing department but refused to comment further on her role with the company.

Furneaux-Harris was not available for comment.

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