New Reader's Digest Europe ad chief shakes up international sales

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LONDON -- Reader's Digest has appointed Gavin Murray, formerly business development director in South Africa, as European advertising sales director.

Mr. Murray, who takes on the post last filled until December 1996 by Henry van Wyk, has immediately instigated a shake-up of the international ad sales business based in London.

Reader's Digest's pan-regional or global business within Europe was suffering because of a lack of sales focus, Mr. Murray believes, with the international division acting more as a service and support operation to the local country units.

From the end of July, Mr. Murray plans a repositioning of the international team as "partners selling ideas." A program of "energizing, training and developing" managers is designed to bring a fresh approach to the company's way of doing business across Europe.

"Our whole focus will be on partnerships with pan-regional advertisers, understanding their businesses intimately and coming up with solutions to their objectives rather than selling pages," says Mr. Murray.

That immersion in clients' business, combined with the Reader's Digest portfolio of products and its direct marketing databases (soon launching in France, Germany and the U.K.) will give the company its "unique selling edge," Mr. Murray claims. He acknowledges many companies pay lip-service to this type of longterm partnership approach: "The real issue is making it happen."

The renewed sales-driven focus on pan-regional business is also being adopted in Asia under Hong Kong-based Regional Ad Director Peter Jeffrey.

Since Mr. van Wyk left at the end of 1996, the European ad sales director's role has been overseen by David Beattie, VP, European advertising sales, based in New York, who retired last April. For a while, Deborah Bellini headed up international sales in London, but she wasn't replaced when she left over a year ago.

Mr. Murray is now responsible both for international sales and individual European country sales operations. While he was with Reader's Digest in South Africa, profits increased by 15% in real terms over five years and the company was named Media Owner of the Year three times by industry decision-makers in local magazine Marketing Mix's awards.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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