ANALYSIS Magazines

ANALYSIS Magazines

Magazine's & Television delivery

How many times have media owners called for better marketing of their media this year? Indeed, media marketing initiatives seem a bit like buses these days - you wait for ages and then several come along at once.

Hardly a week seems to go by without some rallying cry from one sector or another urging competitors to put aside their differences and move in the same direction.

But nothing in 2003 as yet has managed to set the advertising world alight, despite all the commendable notions of newfound unity.

Take the Newspaper Marketing Agency. Formed in January to rid national newspapers of their squabbling and stuffy image in the minds of many media agencies, the best efforts of chief executive Maureen Duffy and her team - backed by a hefty budget from newspaper barons - have failed to lift much of the gloom hanging over the UK press, which in recent weeks has had more than enough localised issues on its plate.

Although it is far too early to write off its chances of long-term success, the jury is very much still out and the NMA's first major cross-title package, a campaign coinciding with the Rugby World Cup, somewhat embarrassingly failed to get a single agency on board.

They have all been at it though. The regional press has released major effectiveness research this year. The Out of Home Media Association - launched for the frustrated outdoor brigade - lasted five minutes.

Even television bosses have made tentative inroads into getting rival broadcasters to link up in ways other than the "hands round each others' necks" approach favoured in the past.

This week it was the turn of the Periodical Publishers Association to get its own marketing bus moving.

Here we go again, you might have thought. Yet, on the face of it, the much-maligned PPA, so often accused of marketing its particular medium as aggressively as a wet blanket, may just be on to something.

Back to basics For an industry notorious for its glitz, expensive lunches and bitchy rivalry, the magazine world appears to have come up with a remarkably down-toearth and simple plan.

Instead of searching for the next Duffy to provide a glamorous lead for the magazine industry, PPA Marketing - as the initiative launched on Tuesday is known - has seen the organisation making use of the armoury it already has at its disposal.

At the frontline will be 52 of the medium's top advertising executives, who have been charged with not just selling their own titles - big names such as Glamour, GQ or Woman's Own - but the whole A to Z of consumer magazines.

Although there is a strong element of research aimed at proving the effectiveness of a medium that already accounts for nearly seven per cent of ad spend, the project will stand or fall on the ability of these so-called advocates to convince agencies and advertisers of the power of magazines.

At the same time, the initiative, which will cost £5m in its first year, will take on the hefty task of training the rest of its 5,000-strong sales force to know far more about magazines in general - not just their own - as part of their day job.

On the face of it, the timing could not be better. With the ructions caused by the ITV merger and fears posed by television sales house consolidation in the minds of every agency - not to mention the newspaper industry undergoing some of its most traumatic changes in years - the opposition appears vulnerable.

Power of sales force But the PPA's strategy seems to be anything but opportunistic. Instead of just jumping in, it has spent 18 months training the magazine world's most respected players as advocates and 400 sales people from across the whole range of consumer mags - including publishing giants such as IPC, Emap and the National Magazine Company - are now ready to be unleashed on unsuspecting agency clients.

"What I'm going to be announcing is absolutely not a marketing bureau or an outside agency," says Georgina Crace, managing director of IPC Advertising and chairman of the PPA Marketing Board, which has spearheaded the project.

"We're coming from a completely different approach which is based on out strongest asset - our sales force," she adds.

"We have 5,000 sales people out there, which is 10 times the number selling TV. They are at the heart of our strategy," says Crace, adding that the reason the strategy had been so long in the planning was because the PPA wanted to lay the foundations before unveiling it to agencies.

The aim is to do more than simply announce the project and hope for some impact: "We're very focused on not talking a good game and then failing to deliver."

Behind the scenes, senior PPA figures are highly critical of the approach taken by national newspapers in marketing their product.

"You look at the NMA and it is trumpeting great things but it's not reflecting any great unity within national newspapers. It doesn't seem as if she [Duffy] has the full support of the industry," says a senior figure at one of the UK's top magazine publishers, adding that the PPA initiative is a united industry approach.

"Previously the PPA has been seen as very insular and not wanting to cause a stir. It's been wanting to make sure it keeps the members who fund it happy.

This is totally different and far more externally focused."

The PPA is hoping it may be able to increase its share of the advertising cake by as much as one per cent - equivalent to £100m - in the next year on the back of its marketing assault.

Research weaponry Of course, merely sending in ad directors who have been around the block a bit would be unlikely to sway agencies to put more of their clients' spend into magazines.

They will be also be armed with new research that claims clients can achieve far greater reach and sales by combining magazines with TV than they would by simply advertising on the box.

The first piece of research is a study recently unveiled by the British Market Research Board, which claims switching your last 25% of TV spend to magazines can massively increase the reach of a campaign.

The so-called Mercury research, already used by some agencies, claims, for example, that a straight TV campaign reaching 75% of women can reach 87% by switching the last 25% of ad spend to magazines.

Another central plank of the PPA's research weaponry will come into play early next year when the National Readership Survey begins publishing cumulative data for magazines, showing coverage on a week-by-week basis for the first time.

This in turn will allow agencies and clients to match ad spend with sales figures on any given week.

The risk factor Despite such powerful research, Tim Lucas, the ex-NatMags ad director spearheading the strategy, admits the crucial factor will be the ability of senior sales people - the advocates - to persuade clients to "take a risk".

"They are waking up," is how Bob Wootton, head of media at ISBA, responded to the launch, although he described the sheer number of media marketing projects at the moment as being a bit like "all the buses coming down Park Lane at once".

Wootton agrees that the advocacy project is a "highly cost-effective" solution and describes the magazine sales force as a "massive resource" but one which brings its own perils.

"The challenge to the PPA shouldn't be underestimated," he says, "The ones at the top are among the best people in media. It's the ones at the bottom that I worry about.

"One of the things I tend to wind media owners up about is that in an agency you rarely make the same presentation twice. At a media owner, you rarely make one which is different."

That has to change, he argues, if the advocacy programme is to work: "There has to be a cascade effect with the knowledge spreading down from the people at the top."

The PPA has tricks up its sleeve to try to make this happen, including a new online information resource and Lucas says that the kudos of being an advocate - and the impact that will have on someone's CV - will also inspire those at the bottom of the pile.

If all else fails, the strategy should at least help produce a better trained magazine workforce.

And if the trick is to convince agencies, it has started out well.

"I can't think of any other sector which has gone about a marketing initiative like this. It does look like being very strong," says Ollie Joyce, press director at ZenithOptimedia.

Adds Steve Goodman, group head of press at Mediacom: "This is a significant move by the industry. They have really listened to the views about what needs to be done and about how magazines can work. It's early days but some of the things they've hinted at are very encouraging."

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