River Group Ad Director, Sam Turner, reveals how throwing the javelin pointed the way to where he is today
I always wanted to be a professional athlete – which may surprise you if you see my current physique.
At 15, I ranked 13th in the UK for the javelin (under-17 weight class) and am currently still ranked 116 in the UK (all men), even though I haven’t competed in over six years!
Throwing the javelin wasn’t exactly paying the bills and I took a part-time job in the gym complex at the athletics track where I used to train. After a year of hard work and (potentially a miracle) I was promoted to a Duty Manager at the complex. I realised then that I could grow the appeal for young people in the area to join and drive memberships.
I presented an idea that used our regional channels (and external platforms) with advertising and marketing solutions based on this younger demographic, and they ran with it. Many mistakes and learnings later, we were driving huge increases in sign-ups. I fell in love with the power of advertising here.
I strived for more of this advertising world and left to work as an Advertising Executive on the small ads at Archant Media’s regional newspapers. It was a challenging environment that really pushed me. I learnt so much in just over a year there and was still hungry for more, somewhere I could really make a difference.
I joined River over 6 1/2 years ago, to work across the classified portfolio of our business, selling advertising solutions to hugely varied clients and categories into WW (WeightWatchers), Healthy, Healthy for Men and Fancy magazines.
Fast-forward nine months and River rewarded my hard work and promoted me directly into the WW (WeightWatchers) display team (the bigger adverts and clients/suppliers). I loved it.
Our team were sales wizards and we continued to grow the licensee participation and third-party revenues with the right solutions and the right product. The success was rewarded, I learnt even more about the value of customer targeting through advertising platforms and I saw another two promotions in this team – stepping up to a Deputy Ad Manager position.
Then came the best bits. A role opened up internally across our key beauty and wellbeing title, DARE magazine, Superdrug’s in-store customer marketing channel. I wanted it and I smashed it.
It was a big stretch as I had limited experience in these sectors, but the editorial and design teams were hugely welcoming, with tons of knowledge I could share. They ensured that I was aware of exactly what the heart of a fragrance is, and that the actual liquid is referred to as ‘juice’ (who knew?!).
I sponged information from these markets, probably brought on by the fact that I always loved the way the whole beauty industry could change overnight and that a new trend could either kill or revitalise a brand in a heartbeat.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still learning now and it wasn’t plain sailing winning over huge brands such as Unilever, but Superdrug themselves were a joy to work with (and still are). I’ve seen this retailer grow to incredible heights in the last four years, and now I’m the Ad Director on the magazine, I’m involved in our company’s future strategy and planning with this client, and constantly looking at new solutions to help the suppliers increase their product sales at Superdrug.
My current role means I get to work across huge £100k+ campaigns that span numerous Superdrug customer channels, with the magazine being the core platform. The access I now have to huge brands and the trust they give me to recommend the right solutions is an absolute winning combination.
River has given me numerous opportunities, believed in me consistently, and I doubt there’s a better team out there than the one we have at DARE.