Magazine article Marketing

Wheeler-Dealer

Magazine article Marketing

Wheeler-Dealer

Article excerpt

Susannah Wheeler * Campaign director * ITV's Year of Promise

The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy describes a mind game used by aliens to persuade people to do things they weren't expecting to. Susannah Wheeler, creator and campaign director of ITV's Year of Promise, might just possess a trace of this ability.

Champion of media fund-raising initiatives such as GMTV's 'Get up and give' and ITV's biennial telethon, Wheeler has an address book bursting with the names of big businesses, charities, celebrities and TV companies she has brought together in an array of fiendishly complicated mega-deals.

Some who have met her talk of being 'Wheelered' into going along with a project because of her infectious enthusiasm. But Wheeler, 38, insists her success stems more from her focus on forming partnerships between disparate bodies than from trying to hit a financial target for a cause.

Wheeler's ability to target and sell ideas to every level of business, from senior management to press office, is at the heart of a successful 12 years in the business. Being a good communicator is down to two things. "I'm a good listener as well as anon-stop talker," she laughs.

It was her skills of persuasion as a broker for Lloyd's in the mid-80s which made Wheeler try her hand in the communications business. Her first media role was working for Thames Television in 1987, as corporate fund-raiser for London in ITV's first telethon. The job entailed securing deals with hundreds of businesses for the appeal. She had no experience in fundraising and no experience in TV. Her team raised[pounds]1.5m prior to the show. "I love trying to prove people wrong," she says.

Wheeler's determination has seen her clinch last-minute deals others wouldn't have got near. When she was working on GMTV's India Appeal, following a devastating earthquake in the area, in 1994, Wheeler was brought in at short notice to run the campaign from scratch. This included getting BT to set up a telephone pledge service at the BT Tower and sponsor the entire operation at a week's notice.

Her attitude to TV is rooted in a personal mission. "I believe passionately that commercial television should be put to more than commercial use," she says. It is this vision that gave birth to ITV's Year of Promise, a massive campaign bringing together all 16 ITV companies, to encourage people to make a promise to mark the new millennium. The campaign will feature a 'Day of Promise' on ITV on May 1. Subscribers to the campaign will have their promises listed on a web site and engraved on Promise Sites around the country.

Wheeler has brought some big names on board, including Barclays, Iceland, Freeserve and BP, but anyone can get involved, from someone making a point of visiting an elderly neighbour, or an advertiser sponsoring first, aid information on bus shelters-the idea is to do something to make the world a better place in the new millennium. …

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