When Trevor Ormerod’s appointment as general manager of advertising at media giant Avusa was announced, industry insiders commented that he might have to deal with a number of challenges – despite inheriting a healthy looking bottom line from outgoing GM, Enver Groenewald.
The reason? The continued downward slide in sales of print media, and newspapers in particular as well as the tricky newspaper advertising environment coupled with the ongoing economic downturn. But Ormerod has a plan, where advertising is concerned. “We need to stay ahead of the game; we need to innovate; package things well; do things differently,” he says.
At the time the announcement was made, Avusa managing director and acting CEO, Mike Robertson, said Ormerod was the “obvious choice”.
“He has considerable clout in the media and advertising world, has successfully run numerous businesses and has proven his value within Avusa over the last year with us.”
Ormerod hasn’t let any time slip by before coming up with a strategic plan to take Avusa Media’s ad sales to the next level.
“The first change is a hard diagnostics selling approach – going to clients to find out what ‘keeps them awake at night’ and the challenges that they face. The crux is that instead of us telling them what we can offer them, we need to embrace their challenges and adapt our approach, co-creating specific products for specific markets.
“Secondly, we need to embrace digital. Avusa has a number of assets – the challenge is embracing them and finding digital models that don’t cannibalise print and also increase budgets, thereby increasing our business and that of our advertisers.
“Thirdly, I’d really like to leverage all the Group assets. Can we use Nu Metro as a partner and create valued package deals for clients? Can we use our share holding in Hirt and Carter to create a unique business offering for clients that need them? There are so many opportunities to work with our sister companies to create value for our advertisers,” he says.
Ormerod admits the newspaper advertising environment is “incredibly competitive and a very difficult environment” in which to operate. “One of our challenges is the hard sell against television – when advertisers are under pressure, they revert back to TV as a ‘safe’ option, so we’re continually fighting that war. Add to that, media inflation, clients wanting added value and slashed client budgets and you can understand how competitive the newspaper advertising field is at the moment,” says Ormerod.
“How is it going to play out? It’s going to be survival of the fittest. Those that sell the most and that actually meet the challenges of their clients, ‘producing the goods’ against their needs, will flourish.”
Ormerod reports to Robertson, the managing director of Avusa Media. He has plans restructure the sales team, but isn’t revealing just how he’s going to do it just yet.
“This has been a period of discovery and, over the last few weeks I’ve been engaging with the industry to find out their needs. We’ve discussed current structures, we’ve listened to what they’ve had to say and we’ll be restructuring accordingly,” he says. ”We are blessed with an incredible sales team, so the restructuring process will simply be geared towards delivering better value for clients.”
He believes the new challenge for his team is to get their heads around the idea of diagnostic selling. “Outside of the traditional skills you’d like to see in every employee – attention to detail and professionalism – our sales team needs to embrace diagnostic selling. This includes identifying challenges, packaging opportunities and negotiation skills. Relationship building skills will also be crucial to our success – relationships are all we have left when times are tough,” he explains.
While Ormerod is not responsible for the entire spectrum of Avusa advertising, he sees his role as bringing the various sales directors “closer together” to leverage opportunities. “There is great opportunity for cross-selling but we need to built trust between the various companies and divisions.”
He believes The Times offers advertisers a good deal. “From our industry sessions, the feedback on The Times is positive – advertisers like it since it’s a quick read, isn’t cluttered and has a nice demographic profile. We believe that The Times now has its own identity and place in the market, and want to focus on the title to help it grow further.”
Of course, Avusa’s flagship newspaper is the Sunday Times. “The Sunday Times is looking good, especially in light of the added value which the recently-launched lifestyle supplements has offered,” says Ormerod. “The Sunday Times is a strong brand, with journalistic credibility, support from management and a diverse target market. Coupled with a great distribution network, brilliant circulation staff and a new injection of marketing efforts, we’ll be focusing on pushing the title through marketing to both hold circulation and bring benefits to readers and advertisers.”
The World Association of Newspapers is hosting a newspaper advertising conference in Prague in March. But Ormerod won’t be going. “I wish I was!” he says. “But, in light of my new role, I don’t think I’m going to have the time. I am however a huge proponent of attending these conferences to pick up on international trends and help us to innovate in our own market.”
Ormerod says his goal for Avusa Media is to have the best sales team in the country, whether that recognition comes through “ winning awards or simply to be seen as delivering on advertiser’s needs”.
“This includes proactivity, innovation, relationship building and true business value. I’d like to really drive revenues to contribute to the bottom line; using all the opportunities I’ve outlined to not only push revenue above inflation but really, above the norm,” he says.
Those are ambitious goals, but Ormerod isn’t scared. “Often we complicate things,” he says. “My one message to advertisers is: I want to give them what they need, so that they give it back in return. As long as we’re helping them do their business better and delivering prospects, we’re doing a great job.”