The Fishbowl: David Wilcox, News UK broadcasting
The Media Leader’s interview series asks the media industry’s top salespeople revealing questions, drawn from our fishbowl. The questions will be drawn at random and contain some tricky posers set by the commercial chiefs themselves.
This week is David Wilcox, commercial director at News UK broadcasting.
David Wilcox was made commercial director of News UK broadcasting in 2022, and works across its portfolio of brands including TalkSport, TalkTV, TalkRadio, Virgin Radio UK and Times Radio.
Before this he spent four years at Wireless Group as commercial director, and prior to that held previous roles at News UK over more than seven years, going from trading manager to sales director at The Sun in that time.
He was agency group head at The Telegraph for more than three years and also did a stint at News International as a senior sales executive.
Has selling media become easier or harder?
It’s neither easier, nor harder, but it is definitely different from my early days in the industry!
From rather tumultuous sales lead meetings, to tense and heated discussions regarding a penny on an SCC rate, things have definitely developed.
This is, in part, through more sensible trading, deeper client engagement and realising that working with other media owners (such as our joint venture with Bauer to create Octave) to achieve improved results for customers is a wiser approach.
**Peer question** If you won £10M on the lottery, what would be the first thing you would buy?
I wish I could come up with something more frivolous but I would make sure it was invested sensibly to provide long term security for my family, although I would also buy a Ferrari and follow Formula 1 around the world for a season.
**Question from Ryan Rummery, commercial DAX director at Global.
How often are you in the office in a typical week?
Typically, four or five times a week. Whilst I hugely appreciate the flexibility on the odd day to catch up on admin, or enjoy the silence to be able to think clearly about certain projects, I do find that being around the team provides me with an insight I wouldn’t otherwise have.
When in the office, I get to see and hear what is truly going on. I also think it’s important for the culture of the team that we get to interact personally, share ideas and, above all, laugh together.
The same applies to customers, it’s important to be able to see them in person, take them into the studios, or discuss issues and opportunities face-to-face.
What is a unique skill you bring to your job?
Unique implies a skill that nobody else has and is one of a kind. With so much rich and diverse talent in this industry, that would be a bold claim.
I have worked with some exceptional people throughout my career, and still do on a daily basis. All you can do is absorb and emulate the skills that you see in front of you, and try to include them in your own abilities. I always admire the most adaptable people, and those who remain authentic, no matter their status.
**Peer question** If you could click your fingers and change one thing about the way your company operates, what would it be?
The innovation that happens on a daily basis is extremely inspiring. I would like to be able to take more people ‘behind the curtain’, be it seeing our superstar DJs in action, the way our editorial teams fill page upon page (web or in print) with content that millions want to consume, or simply the view from 1 London Bridge Street.
There is much for people to learn from colleagues across News Broadcasting, and News UK more broadly. It’s an amazing place to be each day, and having more clients through the door who can experience this would no doubt be mutually beneficial.
** Question from Dave Randall, commercial director at Future.
**Peer question** How do you develop, motivate and engage your team in a hybrid working environment?
We have regular all-hands meetings where we point out our successes and face our challenges. We rota our days in the office so that it’s never the same people on the same day. This allows everyone to interact regularly and remain engaged with each other.
From a personal perspective, I find it’s a question of being as honest as possible with colleagues, ensuring that they can ask me anything, and get a straight answer.
That being the case, there is always clarity around our direction of travel, and the needs of the business. They are a resilient and dedicated team and among the best I have ever worked with.
So I have been constantly impressed by the way they self motivate and adapt to situations. Especially when the going gets tough. I am also lucky enough to have an exceptional management team who can identify developmental and motivational needs at close quarters.
** Question from Mark Bucknell, chief commercial officer at JCDecaux UK.
What are clients talking about this year that they weren’t last year?
There is one clear answer to this, Generative AI. It will be interesting to see how the applications of this exciting development are implemented in the media and how clients adapt to it.
As with all new developments, there will be those who are fearful, and those who embrace, sometimes blindly.
However, I read a quote which I think sums it up perfectly. ‘’The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails’’
Outside your own company, which sales team is doing really well?
There are people I admire throughout the industry, both individually and collectively. I don’t think I can pinpoint one organisation specifically because this industry is so adaptable, so creative and so dynamic that virtually every team out there has qualities which make this the exciting environment that it is.
What one thing would you change when dealing with media agencies?
It’s more for younger people in the industry but I think face-to-face access may have declined with the advent of hybrid working.
It takes a lot more effort to arrange, but a lot of the most long-standing and strongest relationships in this industry were forged in this way. It is important that they continue to develop those deep relationships in these circumstances.
It’s where we as media owners can gain a better understanding of the challenges agencies and clients face, and of course, where we can help.