Magazine article Marketing

Profile: C4' S Happy Captive - Mike Parker, Head of Strategic Sales and Commercial Marketing, Channel 4

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: C4' S Happy Captive - Mike Parker, Head of Strategic Sales and Commercial Marketing, Channel 4

Article excerpt

As well as generating high levels of unfavourable press coverage for Channel 4, Jade Goody's antics in the Big Brother house prompted its press machine to go into paranoia overdrive and pull the plug on Marketing's scheduled interview with its head of strategic sales and commercial marketing, Mike Parker.

When an audience was finally granted, Parker - an amiable, if rather dour, old cove - showed no sign of wanting to don a tin helmet over the furore, despite being the main conduit for advertisers concerned about its content.

'I didn't receive any calls about Big Brother, though some advertisers did pull their airtime', he says. Most notable among these was Carphone Warehouse, which cancelled its show sponsorship.

Parker, 45, mounts a strong defence of the programme. 'Big Brother reflects society. There was a narrative throughout and Jade got her comeuppance,' he says.

Nonetheless, he admits it was an interesting time to be at the broadcaster, where he has worked for 16 years, with some sections of the media putting both it and its senior executives under a virtual siege. 'It felt like a feeding frenzy,' he says. 'This is not to belittle people's concerns about what happened in the house, but Channel 4 always makes edgy and innovative shows.'

It was this remit that attracted Parker to the job. A self-confessed 'frustrated luvvie', his early career as a cameraman at Yorkshire Television came to an ignominious end when he dropped his equipment during a live show.

After being given his marching orders, Parker returned to college to study media, hoping to land a job in production or commissioning. However, he joined the LWT sales department, where he worked his way up the ranks before becoming part of Channel 4's sales launch team.

In 2001, Parker was selected to set up the broadcaster's strategic sales department, which manages relationships with advertisers and agencies and is intended to grow its share of ad budgets. The size of this challenge is becoming ever-more apparent; last month chief executive Andy Duncan predicted that C4's ad profits will have more than halved to just pounds 20m in the 2006 financial year.

The bulk of Parker's efforts in talking to advertisers comprises a series of events and forums. …

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