Having found some ambition at the back of a drawer in the mid-1980s, I finally achieved my goal of joining the big boys of TV sales, becoming sales director of Yorkshire and Tyne-Tees in 1989. I say "big boys" with good reason. they were all huge – tall or wide – and they were all boys.
These men were the Masters of the Universe: chauffeurs, Savile Row suits, tables at Langan’s, debentures at Lord’s. It was fun for a while, but by 1992 I’d decided it wasn’t for me, for various reasons.
Zenith had launched in 1990, but I was much more excited by another media agency founded in 1990 by my pals with an idealistic, counter-trend vision of planning-led media: Pattison Horswell Durden. By 1992, PHD was looking for its first broadcast director and they asked me to suggest suitable candidates. Every name I volunteered was rejected: "No, we want someone like you." Eventually, the penny dropped and I told them to just give me the bloody job then.
These men were the Masters of the Universe: chauffeurs, Savile Row suits, tables at Langan’s, debentures at Lord’s. It was fun for a while, but by 1992 I’d decided it wasn’t for me
People were bemused at me turning my back on high status to join a small company (I was employee number 20). I gave back the company car and my salary was nearly halved, though P,H&D tell me they paid me double what they were paying themselves. They had mortgaged their homes and were sharing one Peugeot 405 between them, which, for serious petrolheads like P and D, must have been excruciating. Don’t feel too sorry for them, though, because they sold to AMV in 1996 for a tidy sum.
It was the best career decision I ever made. I learned about all media, how they interact and I now respect what each medium contributes. PHD also indulged my crazy belief that content for brands would become important down the road, which led to the setting up of Drum. Assertions that this was just an excuse for Jonathan and me to lounge around concocting TV formats is a vile slander. Unfortunately, we had no idea which ones had merit. Years before property became a big thing on telly, JD and I, both Country Life addicts, came up with a property format but did nothing with it.
I’m proud of the 13 years I spent helping to build PHD into a brand that still stands for something important in media and I’m grateful to my three friends for taking a chance on me. They call me "the fifth Beatle" meaning to be kind and inclusive. I haven’t the heart to tell them that, actually, that makes me the untalented and forgettable one.
Tess Alps was broadcast director of PHD in 1992; she is now chair of Thinkbox