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Forging ahead at 'Forbes'

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An 11.3% jump in ad pages last year was welcome news at Forbes magazine, but Kevin Gentzel isn't about to let the advertising department rest on its laurels.

Gentzel, who was promoted to VP-advertising at the magazine in early January, is intent on firing up the sales staff so Forbes' integrated sales approach maintains its momentum.

Indeed, he attributes the recent ad gains—which kept the magazine No.1 in ad pages among the big three business magazines—to Forbes' efforts over the past five years to extend its brand, developing products that serve its audience of affluent consumers and business executives. To reach that audience, Forbes offers marketers a range of solutions, including the business and lifestyle magazines, Web site, conferences, custom publishing products and a TV program, "Forbes on Fox."

"We were pretty fast out of the gate," Gentzel said. "One of the aspects of our success is that we've approached this aspect of integrated selling. We need to constantly ensure that our salespeople are articulate with all of the different offerings we have here. We're not just out there selling ad pages, we're selling programs."

Gentzel most recently was national advertising director for the magazine. Now, he will oversee all advertising efforts for Forbes in the U.S. He also hopes to better develop his skills on the financial side of the business and gain more experience in number-crunching and negotiation.

He reports directly to Forbes Magazine Group President-Publisher James Berrien, whom he considers his mentor. Berrien, in turn, credits Gentzel for much of the magazine's recent success. "Kevin is as high-touch and strategic a seller as I have ever known," Berrien said. "He knows his customers' businesses, is passionate about our brand and knows how to marry our strengths with his customers' needs."

Gentzel, who started his career as an advertising sales representative for Scientific American, joined Forbes in May 1999. "Good or bad, I walked in the door in a booming economy," he said. "There was a top of the heap there that are no longer in business. We weathered the economic downturn and just stayed on message."

The lesson he learned from the lean years was to stay closer to advertisers and marketing partners, making more frequent sales calls. It's a lesson he's not willing to put aside during better times for the industry. Gentzel plans to be on the road two weeks a month, listening to customers.

"We want to put together programs that clients want from us rather than we're selling to them," he said. "We need to remain media-agnostic." 

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