The customer publishing industry's trade body, The Association of Publishing Agencies, is 10 years old this week.
Of course, customer publications were around pre-APA, but, in terms of their coming of age as marketing tools - and their burgeoning position within marketing schedules - it could be said that they are 10 years old. And for a sector worth more than £313m per year, that's not bad.
So what will the next 10 years bring and how will the sector develop? And more to the point, how quickly can £313m become £413m or £513m? In the past 10 years, the industry has developed its marketingled proposition to the point where customer magazines are now seen as essential to key loyalty, retention or customer relationship management-based tools.
But, to really get a sense of where customer titles could go, picture this: there are still numerous client companies out there which have excellent magazines in which they seek thirdparty advertising, but won't consider putting another contract title on their own advertising schedule.
There are others who have explored advertiser-funded TV programming, with all its Independent Television Commissionregulated restrictions, without having considered this major medium that they could own without any fear of interference.
This suggests there is still a long way to go in terms of recognising the job a magazine can do.
It's not just about retention and loyalty. Customer magazines are also proven to increase prospects, sell products and endorse, and even create brand perceptions, among other things. Which, to a certain extent, puts that £313m into perspective.
Because, if they can do all that, how come they're worth only two per cent of the UK's annual advertising spend? So how to move forward? Well, the customer publishing industry can start by taking a more media-literate look at how and why marketers spend their budgets.
Research conducted by White Lodge Media for the APA highlighted the positive effect on audience delivery and coverage that a combined TV and magazine schedule can produce.
It referenced Millward Brown research in both the UK and the US where the effectiveness of components of media schedules was analysed. Television delivered a 71% share of awareness and magazines delivered a 64% share within campaigns.
But 77% of expenditure across those campaigns was on TV, with only 23% in magazines.
These figures suggest relative awareness indices of 92 for TV but 278 for magazines; so magazine spend delivered three times more awareness than television as part of a combined schedule.
A little simplistic, maybe. But, if magazines can be this effective as part of a media schedule, how much more effective can they be when the advertiser has editorial control and can put the publication directly into the hand of their client or prospect? If this argument is followed to its logical conclusion, customer magazines that operate within the context of an above-the-line media schedule - as opposed to a below-the-line CRM strategy - could well become a "musthave" for major brands.
Now, that's a scenario that makes for an exciting next 10 years.
Andy Leach Commercial director Mediamark Publishing