campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 12 December 2002 08:00AM
The shock resignation of Sly Bailey, IPC Media's chief executive, has stolen the thunder from a number of her directors who were promoted last week as part of a board restructure at the publisher.
But before Bailey's defection to Trinity Mirror, the elevation of the group marketing director, Philippa Brown, to the board received a generally warm reception.
The management restructure also saw Mike Soutar take on the role of editorial director. But cynics might argue that Brown's promotion is linked to press reports that IPC's owner, AOL Time Warner, is preparing to dispose of the publisher. "That's absolutely not the case," Brown insists.
The real reason, it seems, is more prosaic -- the dawning realisation of the role marketing can play for the company. Many say it's about time. Paul Thomas, a managing partner at MindShare, says: "IPC doesn't market itself as well as it should do. On the whole, it needs to be more aggressive. Philippa is bright but needs to get out in front of the agencies more."
Two years ago, Brown took the job of group marketing director to oversee the marketing efforts of the company's four publishing divisions. Previously, it had been the role of the publisher to co-ordinate marketing efforts but there is now a dedicated team of 100 marketers reporting to Brown.
As well as this coordinating role, there is also the matter of magazine launches expected next year. The most recent title to be unveiled by IPC was Webuser two years ago and subsequent reports have focused on the closure of some of its titles. Last year, it closed magazines including Woman's Journal, Your Garden and Marie Claire Health and Beauty.
Brown isn't giving anything away at this stage but she seems to have a busy year planned for 2003. One year after IPC Media was subsumed by the AOL Time Warner behemoth, cross-marketing deals and company leverage have made it on to the agenda. "I've really pushed to leverage the portfolio and there will be more of this next year," she promises.
This will come as welcome news for those who express frustration with IPC's attempts to strike cross-platform deals. "Emap are streets ahead of IPC in this field even though IPC is the market leader," one press buyer says.
With more than 90 titles under IPC's belt perhaps it's no surprise that any movement in this direction would be slow.
Although Brown does not concern herself with ad sales (consumer advertising is her domain), it is a good sign that various bits of the AOL Time Warner group have started to talk to each other. An example of this is the way in which content is shared or how preferential subscription rates for IPC titles can be bought on the AOL website.
There have been cross promotions between Chat and Prediction. AOL CD-Roms have been polybagged with magazines and InStyle has been brought into the IPC Southbank stable from Time where it now sits with Marie Claire. But it's not all linked to AOL Time Warner.
"A big part of my role is looking at ways this [further collaboration] can be delivered. I have monthly status meetings with AOL Time Warner but it is a very good parent company -- it tends not to interfere with our business," Brown says.
Brown is responsible for overseeing IPC's advertising output and claims to be pleased with both the agencies, Walsh Trott Chick Smith and Roose, and the results. "InStyle launched after Glamour but it has built steadily and grew 15% when the advertising was on air," she explains. IPC's TV and Satellite Week also developed a media first when it became the first media brand to use the Sky Interactive service.
Further campaigns for Time, Now and Marie Claire are due to air next year.
But above-the line advertising is in the small arms section of Brown's weaponry. Packaging, sales promotions and point-of-sale activity all take up her time. And to prove that although there is now a line of communication between IPC and AOL Time Warner it is not tied to its parent company's apron strings, Brown cites deals with MTV (Loaded sponsored the MTV show 'Jackass') as an example of the diversity of the marketing output.
Among the other initiatives, Brown has introduced a brand strategy process across all of IPC's titles in which the editorial and advertising staff know roughly where the title is going.
In answer to IPC's critics, it seems that Brown has had a pretty busy time of it over the past year and next year looks like being no quieter. Agencies will be relieved if all the hard work from this energetic and likeable woman pays off.
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This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk