AGENDA: Cheer up, Simon, a publisher’s life may prove happy

It is strange and humbling experience to find oneself cheek by jowl, as it were, with genius - even if only in a literary sense. Such was my feeling the other week when reading a piece next to my column dilating on the extraordinary talents of Simon Chappell.

It is strange and humbling experience to find oneself cheek by

jowl, as it were, with genius - even if only in a literary sense. Such

was my feeling the other week when reading a piece next to my column

dilating on the extraordinary talents of Simon Chappell.



Every week in the same spot there is a profile of some marketing maestro

or another. Reading these pieces I am puzzled as to why marketing has

not yet conquered the world - or, at any rate, most of Western

Europe.



Our industry is obviously filled to the point of embarrassment with

people of astonishing ability.



Simon, for instance (I hope he doesn’t mind me referring to him in such

a familiar fashion) is clearly quite out of the common mould. At a mere

35, he is a boss of a contract publisher, which puts into context the

efforts of a careless plodder like Alexander the Great who had only

managed to conquer the known world by that age - and died of the effort.

And although he had only just started in his new job, Simon was already

’a passionate apologist’ for the way he makes his living.



Apologising - passionately or otherwise - for something after a few days

seems rather like premature remorse. If it’s so good, why apologise?



A passionate apology seems to me better employed by some dodgy geezer

trying to talk their way out of a situation eg, Slick Willy. More

enthusiasm, please! Passionate advocacy would be wiser, surely?



Anyhow, all that was in fun because you and I know very well that the

entire piece was written by Simon’s adoring mum, except the part from

his best friend. That was the bit calling him ’visionary’ and ’ahead of

his time,’ and also ’very clear about what direct marketing was all

about and what you can achieve with it’ and ’a good team player and a

thoroughly nice guy’ - all qualities I lack.



I shouldn’t be so flippant; by 35 I had proved to my mother how useless

I was, having built and carefully wrecked a business empire in three

countries and lost a ton of money. Moreover, contract publishing is

indeed interesting.



Simon’s biggest competitor, Redwood, publishes the three magazines with

the biggest circulations in Britain. It gets startling results, too -

60% of those who read the magazine then proceed to go and buy something

from Marks & Spencer. And it can cost less to produce and post a

magazine than a direct mail pack.



When I first learned all this, I was tempted to change my job, since one

of the few businesses I haven’t ruined was in publishing. However, I

shall keep churning out the odd spot of direct mail, because when you

wish to sell something specific to specific individuals you can’t beat

it.



But whether Simon is a genius or not, he has made a smart move: there’s

nothing like being in the right place at the right time.



Drayton Bird runs The Drayton Bird Partnership.



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