The Fishbowl: Imogen Fox, The Guardian
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 Imogen Fox, chief advertising officer at The Guardian.
Imogen Fox has been part of the The Guardian since 2004, progressing from assistant fashion editor to become head of fashion.
She moved into The Guardian’s commercial department in 2016 where she has held a number of leadership roles, including executive editor of Guardian Labs and most recently director of advertising.
In her current role as chief advertising officer, she is responsible for shaping and delivering The Guardian’s advertising strategy, overseeing key relationships with clients and agencies, while maximising revenue growth.
What are the three most important skills a media salesperson needs to have in 2023?
They’ve got to love adverts rather than the business of advertising, a very important distinction. They should always pay attention to what the customer is saying so they can give them what they want, rather than go off on a boring tangent. And have a bit of charm – no one wants to be the meeting that everyone dreads.
What’s your favourite ad of all time?
It’s Boots, Here Come the Girls. Anyone who’s ever been to a work Christmas party recognises that excitement of the mutual glow-up at 5pm. Everyone recognises that vibe. That’s what really great advertising should do: capture real-life moments that make you laugh and nod in agreement.
If you could learn any skill from scratch, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to do two things at once. I am depressingly mono about stuff.
**Peer question** Who’s your media industry idol and what influence did they have on you?
It’s Carine Roitfeld who edited Paris Vogue in the 2000s. I used to work in fashion and I was in awe of the way she made Paris Vogue really stand for something.
Paris Vogue became a shorthand for a particular take on fashion at the time. The staff would dress in Balmain jackets with black jeans and messy hair. The coverage was amazingly chic.
Roitfeld really made the magazine a lifestyle and I admire that singular approach that really pulls on the strengths of the brand. It makes me think about the power of our brand at The Guardian – the amazing journalism and what that can bring for advertisers.
**Question from Duncan Chater, managing director at Bloomberg Media.
What key thing has changed in conversations with clients this year compared with last year?
Everyone is talking about sustainability in advertising, which is great, but I’m keen to see more than just talk.
We’re urging clients not to lose sight of the importance of where they spend their media money as part of a more sustainable supply chain.
Advertising helps fund high quality journalism. That’s better than any flashy gimmick.
**Peer question** What has been your biggest, or most insightful, mistake and what did you learn from it?
As a fashion assistant I once opened an expensive necklace for a shoot and immediately (and accidentally) binned it with the packaging. It’s a reminder to not rush through your to-do list.
Think about what’s important to the job you’re doing, rather than just getting tasks completed.
**Question from James Cornish, VP international sales at Vevo.
Which podcasts do you regularly listen to and why?
The Guardian’s Pop Culture with Chanté Joseph – it’s clever and funny and does what magazines used to do for me.
If you could have any job in the world (other than what you do now), what would you do?
As a little girl I always wanted to be James Bond and I haven’t got over it. So some sort of fictional well-dressed spy.
**Peer question** If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Simplify it. Stop making out that it’s a really complicated business with loads of acronyms. Or that you need to be a maths genius to understand it.
Advertising is about convincing someone that you’ve got a useful or exciting product or brand and that they might want it in their lives.
** Question from Ed Couchman, previously UK general manager at Snap.
What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?
I wouldn’t dare to predict but I hope I’m with nice, bright people who make me laugh.
Read more Fishbowl interviews here and see what media’s top salespeople say about working in the industry and what concerns their clients. To suggest an interviewee, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.