Katherine Levy: Mag man Salmon looks like a fish out of water at Channel 4
A bit like having a tooth wrenched out by a piece of string attached to a speeding truck.
That's how much it appeared to smart Matt Salmon, the group commercial director at Hearst Magazines UK, when the news leaked last Friday that he would be leaving the company to take up the second head of agency sales role in Jonathan Allan's all-new Channel 4 cast.
If the shock was the fact that it wasn't ready to come out yet, the resulting throbbing could have been lessened if Hearst had acted quickly to inform its key commercial partners rather than putting them on divert.
In any case, this was belatedly remedied on Monday morning, when Monsieur de Puyfontaine personally e-mailed agency partners to confirm Salmon's departure and say Hearst was looking to appoint a replacement very soon and that, in the meanwhile, it is "business as usual".
The new Channel 4 line-up, which is now complete but for the role of head of digital and partnership innovation, is proving more and more eclectic. Salmon will work alongside the recently appointed head of agency sales, Damon Lafford, who comes from Sky Media and has previously worked for ITV and Viacom. This makes sense. But Allan has also taken a giant leap of faith in appointing two non-TV operators in Ed Chalmers from Global Radio and now Salmon to pivotal roles.
For all his pristine professionalism, Salmon's glossy magazine heritage seems a square peg bashing against a round hole. And those who are really mean might also highlight the fact he made his name at the National Magazine Company as the publishing director of a stable including the commercial corker Prima Baby & Pregnancy.
Salmon certainly has lots of homework to do. Having started his career at Emap before joining NatMag in 1994, he has absolutely zilch TV experience. But what he does have from working at Hearst is very good relationships with Channel 4's key spenders, such as Procter & Gamble and L'Oreal.
In an age when creativity and partnerships supposedly matter much more than barking TVRs down the wire, this hire starts to look a little less barmy. But the reality is television is unlikely to ever wash away its boisterous DNA and Salmon will have to do his best to avoid becoming prime fodder for the TV piranhas.
Forgive the continuing freshwater theme but, for Hearst, it's a slap in the face with a stinky carp. Salmon was only promoted to group commercial director of the newly combined enterprise four months ago.
Right now, Hearst needs a passionate advocate to talk up its suite of premium brands. That speech would have sounded much more convincing coming from someone who had stayed loyal to the company in the aftermath of all that change.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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