Opinion: Question Time With ... Lawson Muncaster - CNN’s sporty director of sales is not a media tart, Mark Tungate discovers

On the phone, Lawson Muncaster sounds disturbingly like Robbie Coltrane.

On the phone, Lawson Muncaster sounds disturbingly like Robbie


But perhaps that’s just a southern jessie’s way of saying that he’s


He cuts an imposing figure in the flesh, too - big, craggy and

in-your-face. You wouldn’t want to get into a fight with the


That’s not to say he’s not a nice bloke, though. He clearly knows how to

have a laugh, and tells a good tale about a recent horseback safari in


’I’d never really ridden before and, of course, I didn’t make any

attempt to practise beforehand. So there I am on the first day,

galloping through the bush with all these lions chasing me. Basically,

they wanted to eat me,’ he laughs.

The safari took place during a six-month rest period after Muncaster

left Mills & Allen, a victim of the takeover by JC Decaux. But he

insists he’s not bitter, despite feeling that he didn’t get the chance

to finish the job of reorganising the sales team. ’Business is

business,’ he shrugs.

’They wanted their own people in place and I can live with that.’

And he’s landed on his feet, scooping the plum job of heading CNN

International’s sales across the UK, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

Muncaster has plenty of plans - notably increasing the London sales team

from 12 to 16 - but he’s not going to overturn the place for the sake of


’New people sometimes think they have to start chopping and changing,

but I want to learn everything there is to know about the product

first,’ he says. ’You can’t sell a product properly unless you know it

inside out. And as this is only day 12, I’ve got lots to do.’

On top of all that, he’s still commuting from Aberdeen, where his wife

is a helicopter pilot, and trying to find a new home in London. ’It’s

got to be close to the centre of town, preferably near a golf course,

and we’ll need a helipad,’ he jokes. ’Estate agents love me.’

Golf is one of Muncaster’s big passions - in fact, he’s living testament

to the theory that a love of sport can do wonders for your sales


He got his first job, at Scottish Television, after a chance meeting at

a rugby match. And when he moved to London to join Eurosport, his days

spent on Scottish golf courses with senior media buyers came in very


He talks fondly of his time at Eurosport, where he was joint sales

director with Tom Keaveny, who remains a pal. ’He’s one of the best in

the business, extremely sharp. We worked together as a team - there was

no competition between us.’

Muncaster took the sales director job at Mills & Allen because he wanted

to find out what it was like to be on the board of a company. ’I thought

it would give me an appreciation of how sales fits into an organisation,

and how other departments view the sales role. It was a fascinating job

and I’d probably have stayed longer if the takeover hadn’t happened. I’m

not a media tart.’

Even so, he makes no attempt to hide his delight at his new job, which

enables him to draw on his pan-European experience while developing

partnerships with clients across the whole range of CNN products, from

the news service to its websites.

’CNN is a fantastic brand and I don’t think it’s really understood by

media buyers. People who work in the agency world are not our viewers.

Our viewers are AB1 chief executives, key decision-makers who regularly

travel the world. There are not many of those in agencies,’ he says.

Muncaster on how he recruits

’The kind of sales people I’m looking for have to be enthusiastic,

talented and smart - but not so smart that they let their pride blind

them to good ideas.’


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