Simon's Blog - Life in a country castle
‘I’m calling from the Borcestershire Courier to offer you a heavily discounted opportunity to advertise in our publification’.
‘I beg your pardon?’ I can hardly believe what I’ve just heard.
‘We are a weekly publification…’
OK that’s enough. In common with most businesses we get innumerable unsolicited sales calls every day, and a good many of them are from newspapers and magazines: The South East Wiltshire Weekly Wurzle; The Cumberland Gurner; The North Somerset Scrumpy Press; The Whitby Friday Fryer and, of course, The Kirkby Stephen Tup & Fleece. I have every sympathy for the poor souls at the other end of the telephone. I used to write for just such worthy oracles of local information and debate and I know how difficult it is to cajole local advertisers to believe in a newspaper which once sent me on to the dual carriageway to get interviews from drivers about their feelings about being stuck in traffic (I actually went home instead and Wendy and I had great fun making up the quotes and the people to go with them which all got published). So I can feel the desperation that must be filling the ad sales department when the advertising manager announces that the paper is doing a feature – or an advertorial – on a holiday location 250 miles away and everyone is to get as many advertisers on the hook as possible. A fair few of the sales team will be spotty youths fresh out of school, either of their own volition or because they’ve been asked to leave, so the only way the campaign is going to work is to issue a script and drum into them that this must not be deviated from. And this is where the fun begins.
I want to say that I don’t think the script says ‘publification’ but as it’s such a priceless inprecision I’m encouraging him to repeat it. Of course, in interjecting and asking questions unexpectedly I try to throw him completely off script, adding to the sport.
‘I’m sorry, can you just repeat the name of your title. And what are you, daily, evening...?’ But he’s not phased yet.
‘The Borcestershire Courier is a weekly free publification and we reach 550,000 readers each week.’
‘What! How many?’
‘550,000 and they are only ABC1 readers’. Now this conversation did really take place, I have changed the newspaper name to save some blushes and a possible court case, but suffice to say that the county served by this illustrious free rag which is claiming more readers The Times does not even have 550,000 inhabitants and, other than a handful of cider magnates, a paucity of ABC1 locals.
‘How do you work that out?’ I’m intrigued.
‘Because we are free paper we have a very high pass-on rate’. I should say, and imagine copies of the Borcestershire Courier being couriered twice round the globe each week to reach the 530,000 ex-pat sons and daughters of Borcestershire who no longer live in the county but mush live in rapt anticipation of news from the shire.
Oh, but there’s no stopping him now, ‘Due to the current climatic recessionary climate we are having’, he is either abandoning the script in desperation or he has lost a contact lens and is trying to carry on manfully, ‘high end holidays are a thing of the past and high disposable income families are looking to the UK for their quality staycational breaks’. No, he’s sticking to the script, it’s just that he wrote it himself in his best GCSE Grade D English. ‘Having seen your advertisement publificated in the Westmorland Whinger you have been identified as a prime business to appear in our publification where we are doing a feature on the Lakes Valley District Park and the Yorkdale Fells and Dells National Park.’
I’m so excited by this fabulous research and the opportunity I blurt out, ‘how much do you want for this?’
‘Because we only have a few spaces left’, yeah, right, ‘we can offer you a matchbox sized ad in full monotone for £23.75’. I wonder whether each copy of the courier comes with a free magnifying glass but guess not if it has got to reach such a vast global audience within a week, so ask if there might be a slightly larger size ad available. Of course, I am not hopeful as the deadline is tomorrow and there is only limited space left.
‘Well, I can do a quarter page for £50, a full page for £100 or the whole newspaper is yours for £250’. OK, so it’s a buyer’s market, ‘is there any free editorial to go with that?’
‘I think the feature has already been written’.
Yes, and I’m sure it is a very well researched travelogue on what to do and where to go in the land of the Lakes Valley and Yorkdale.
‘I’m sorry Damien’, I don’t know that’s his name but it’s a fair guess, ‘we just don’t do local press advertising, it doesn’t work’. I’m sure I hear the sound of his head crashing onto the desk and a slight whimper at the end of the telephone and wish there was something I could do.
‘Damien, do keep in touch and let us know of any other upcoming imaginary land features,’ I add encouragingly. ‘We’d be especially interested in Mystery tours of Mordor or Short breaks for Hobbits in The Shire,’ but there’s no reply.
Of course, for all his incompetence and inappropriately channelled enthusiasm, Damien is far less irksome that the other kind of ad sales rep: the one who wants to be your friend or treats you as if he already is.
‘Hi, is that Simon? It’s Steve here from IveGotALoverlyPlaceToStay.com. How are you doing today?’
‘That’s great. How’s the weather with you, we’ve got a nice bit of sunny weather/snow/it’s a bit blustery/a freak heatwave and people are dying (delete as appropriate). I’ve got news of an offer that will turn your business around.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with my sodding business', and I want to ad that if he doesn't leave me alone I'll kick him in his LoverlyBunchOfCoconuts.com
‘Oh, so you’re fully booked for the next eighteen months?’
‘No, and I don’t want to be, I’d be in a straight jacket if we were.’ But Steve isn’t listening, has no idea what sort of outfit he’s trying to sell his decidedly dodgy website to and so can't grasp the sheer absurdity of anyone running their own hotel wanting to be completely full all the time.
I’m inclined to judge websites by their name now, without even looking at them if they sound ridiculous as most increasingly do as all the best domain names get used up.
all smack of desperation and so do the people employed to flog them.
Which brings me back to Steve. ‘I can guarantee you fully booked rooms once you’ve taken a listing with us. I know you run a quality establishment, it looks amazing and I only wish I could afford to come and stay,’ OK, now I’m really aggravated.
‘I’m not interested.’
‘Well, can you afford to say that Simon, me old friend? I feel I know you already - excellent blog. We have our sales manager, Kevin, in your area this afternoon at 2.30, can I ask him to call in and see you?’
‘Well he’ll be in your area tomorrow, or Thursday if that suits.’
What the bloody hell has he done, pitched a tent at the top of the drive? Are we being web-stalked? ‘No no NO NO!’
‘Well I appreciate you’re busy running your fantastic property and next time Kevin is in your area, perhaps he can pop in.
Not without an appointment he won't and I’m going to be ready for him with my own script. Better give Damien a call back for a few tips.