Encouraging signs for advertisers

Although we at media agency Universal McCann’s press department enjoyed a few freebies last week it was in stark contrast to magazine ABC days gone by, when desks were overrun with cakes and gifts, and people ran around squealing after sucking in helium from the circulation increase-branded balloons.

However, while there has been disappointment, we are certainly not sharing the gloomy view taken by some media experts that this is the beginning of the end of magazines.

The fact that IPC and the BBC released group product reports does not mean that the print product is on its last legs – just that brands are now becoming bigger beasts across a variety of touch points.

Advertisers have to accept, though, that certain brands are better suited to the digital format. NME, for example, by the very nature of its editorial offering, has become a much larger property online than in print. The difficult part is to evolve the print offering to stop complete reader migration to the ‘Dark Side’of digital. Car Magazine was losing circulation rapidly until it moved its buyers guide online, changed the magazine to a glossier format and reversed its circulation misfortunes as a result.

The younger men’s market is another area that will perhaps be served better online, judging by the latest poor results. Advertisers have never been too comfortable about their brands sitting next to countless nipple shots, and now it’s pretty obvious that today’s lads are also growing bored with them or, more likely, less embarrassed accessing them online.

FHM editor-in-chief Anthony Noguera is looking to address this problem and has provided the title with a welcome and positively received facelift. There’s also a buzz about the September launch of the first free men’s title, ShortList. Free media in the print form is being embraced by most advertisers now, and if it creates the impact that free title Sport had in its first year, it will be a successful debut launch for Crash Test Media.

These are testing times for monthly magazines in general, as the public’s desire for weeklies continues to have an adverse affect on circulations, especially at the younger end of the market.

However, advertisers will always have affection for a monthly, as they love the environment, the quality, and the fact that they are reaching their audience in a more relaxed frame of mind – the key strengths of magazine advertising.

The likes of GQ, (Harpers) Bazaar and Vogue provide their audience with a reason to part with nearly £4 by offering editorial excellence and quality supplements, and have been rewarded with continual circulation retention – a standard for others to follow.

There is much to be positive about in the fiercely competitive weekly sector. Look has posted an impressive debut ABC, finding itself that elusive gap in the market which is what advertisers find so appealing about weeklies. It is now possible to reach such a broad cross-section of people compared with a few years ago, and the weekly frequency provides the opportunity for rapid cover build, attracting the likes of TV-favouring fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) clients.

There are warning signs, however. The normally reliable Heat and Closer both recorded blips, while More and First are about to be relaunched into an already crowded sector. Advertisers will be increasingly concerned about reader promiscuity, and those publishers that continue to deliver reader numbers without the constant need to slash their cover prices will be looked upon favourably.

It is encouraging that we are seeing titles such as Bazaar, More, First, Esquire and FHM receiving investment from their publishers, because it gives confidence to advertisers that there is a commitment to bringing the good times back for magazines.

Dan Pimm is head of press at Universal McCann

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