Ray Sale Feature

By The Drum, Administrator

March 7, 2002 | 8 min read

Ray Sale, chairman of CIA Manchester, was a happy man. He was happy to meet people, happy to work in advertising, happy to entertain and be entertained, and more than happy to give something back to the industry that he felt had given him so much. Of course 'happy' is not the only word that has been used to describe him since he so unexpectedly passed away late last year. 'Genuine' is another, along with 'generous', 'honourable', 'popular' and 'respected'. As his colleague at CIA Emma Slater pointed out, 'It may be a cliche, but no-one has had a bad word to say about him.' Which, of course, cliche or not, was equally relevant when he was still with us - a permanently smiling fixture on the Manchester media scene.

To many it will be difficult to imagine that same scene without Ray, and this is perhaps another reason why his death has been so acutely felt. Since moving from Heinz to Granada in 1974, he has been so synonymous with the city's media circuit that it has often been difficult to think of 'him' and 'it' as two separate entities. A past president and chairman of the MPA, he was the regional director of NABS and one of the few recipients of the MPA Gold Medal. He also collected the Lifetime Achievement accolade at last year's Suit Awards and was a tireless campaigner for the relaunch of the Roses. Depending on which way you looked at it, he was either the (benevolent) monarch of the media or your favourite 'industry uncle', but either way his unique contribution to the development of the regional industry deserves to be acknowledged.

'Ostensibly he was a 'media man',' stated Steve Blakeman, European director of strategy at Initiative Media Paris, 'but his unselfish work for NABS, the Roses and the MPA (to name but a few) made him an ambassador for the entire industry.' Blakeman, who up until last year worked under Sale as CIA's MD, referred to him as 'the original 'northern star', immensely proud of his heritage and never afraid to say so.'

'In fact,' he added, 'I can't think of anyone else who has done as much as he did to champion the cause of the North. And that, for me at least, will be his legacy.'

It is perhaps a mark of the man that he left so many legacies for individual members of the community to recognise and enjoy. His endeavours seemingly meant something different to almost everybody, the only point of acquiescence being that his personal impact was regarded as a universally positive one. Emma Slater, regional group planning director at CIA, explained her interpretation. 'His legacy is all around us at C¤IA - it's in the business and it's in the people. His management style was a reflection of his own personality and it has allowed the company to develop into what it is now. Some chairmen wouldn't give the staff the time of day, but Ray always gave so much more than that. He gave them his own time and he gave them opportunities. He allowed them to play to their strengths and helped bring them through to develop their full potential. I know a lot of people who can be thankful for that.'

Mick Style would probably be one of the first to admit to his debt of gratitude. After joining CIA at almost exactly the same time as Ray (April 1988), Style's budding potential was allowed to flourish, and he has now taken over the very same position that his mentor once occupied. As MD of the newly rebranded CIA:Mediaedge Manchester, Style has faced the onerous task of shouldering the responsibility of comforting his staff whilst steering the agency forward into the future.

He acknowledges that it has been 'an emotionally draining experience' but one that has been made more bearable by his own take on his boss's legacy: 'Personally, I think he's left behind a legacy of strength and resolve. Ray's memory and the memory of how he conducted himself has given us all immense strength. We've ended up thinking 'Well, what would Ray have done in the same situation?' and that understanding of him as a person, what he would have wanted us to do, has been a great help.' He added, ' It's up to us now to build on his achievements in our own way and continue with the running of a very successful business.'

Style also acknowledged that the 'hundreds' of calls and letters of sympathy had been gratefully received and helped the agency through a very difficult time.

But of course, it's not just the team at CIA that has mourned Ray's passing. Most members of the advertising fraternity have been touched in some way by Ray's life, and as a result have also felt loss at his death.

'In a business full of black-belt egos, Ray's self-effacing manner was at the heart of his immense popularity,' remembered BDH/TBWA's chairman Martin Anderson. 'My best evidence of this was Ray agreeing to be featured in the ads we ran to promote the 'new' Roses creative awards, where he was depicted in mock retirement as the face of Roses past. There are few personalities in the business who would have agreed to be portrayed in this way, but Ray thought about it for all of two seconds.'

No one more deserving: Ray receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award at The Suit Awards from David Croft of Granada.

Of course, as highlighted before, it wasn't just the Roses that Ray championed. Robert Johnstone, president of the MPA, recalled asking him about his involvement with the various industry bodies and why he did so much. 'Without hesitation he said that the reason was simple. He had enjoyed a good life from the business with great reward and therefore thought it was only proper to give something back.' As Johnstone noted, 'This was the refreshing outlook of a man prepared to share - to be part of the business and not above it.'

This attitude earned Ray not only an immense amount of respect, but also a great deal of friends. 'Any reference of the word 'Ray' in advertising circles could only mean one man,' acknowledged Michael Barrington, chairman of BJL. He added fondly, 'We met regularly for lunch to put the world to rights and to have a good laugh. I can picture him arriving now, hand smoothing the Charltonesque hairstyle, always late, always smiling. As a friend, as in business, he was true, one of the most genuine people I've had the pleasure of knowing.'

His impact on the careers of the people around him should not be forgotten either. Mick Style openly accepted that 'It's fair to say that he shaped my career,' and he is not alone in this assessment. An observation that comments from James Rice, Carlton TV's regional sales director, bore further testimony to.

'I owe a lot to Ray,' Rice admitted. 'He gave me my first job in the business in 1984 when I joined the Granada local sales team (Sale was regional sales director at the time). He was one of the genuinely good guys; very fair, very funny and generous with both his time and his effort. Like most people who knew him well, it's been hard to get over the shock and sad loss, but in remembering him, it's also hard not to smile.'

And that, if anything, will be one of the most enduring memories of a man who fully enjoyed both his business life and his precious time outside the office. His infectious smile lit up rooms and lives in equal measure, making him fun to be with and a pleasure to work alongside. Something that Tempus Group chairman Chris Ingram was keen to acknowledge with a personal anecdote:

'Three years ago there were around 150 of us in Venice at CIA's annual worldwide conference. Coincidentally, Ray, together with a colleague and I, came out of the Lido (this was, after all, a pre-recessionary conference) at about the same time. Although I should have been circulating among the many managers from all over the world, I confess that I sneaked off with Ray and we ended up spending most of the day together.'

He candidly concluded: 'I felt rather guilty, but Ray is such good company (you still find yourself saying 'is' rather than 'was') that the time passed incredibly quickly... I still remember it as one of the most enjoyable days I've spent for many years.'

A fond memory that those lucky enough to have come into contact with Ray Sale will surely appreciate. Ray Sale, chairman of CIA Manchester, died after a short illness on 23rd December 2001; it was the day of his 58th birthday. He is survived by his wife Pat and three stepdaughters.


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