World: Medium of the Week - Australia braces for the arrival of gossip mag OK!

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 21 May 2004 12:00AM

They love their magazines but will the Australians love OK!, Pippa Considine asks. With OK! set to hit the Chinese streets any day now, Northern & Shell is already gearing up for its second launch beyond the UK, this time in Australia.

Scheduled to launch in late summer this year, the edition will kick off as a monthly. In China, the operation is a franchise, but in Australia a wholly owned Northern & Shell subsidiary, called Northern & Shell Pacific, will publish it.

Northern & Shell has recently appointed Christian Toksvig to the new post of international operations director to oversee OK!'s international expansion plans. Such a position is clearly required: launches are slated for India, the US, Russia and Spain. The latter will prove challenging as Hello! (Ola!) magazine originally hails from Spain. "We're very keen to compete with Hello! wherever it is," Toksvig says.

So why launch Down Under, where there's no Hello! or Heat? Simon Davies, the head of print at OMD in Sydney, says: "The Australian magazine market is very competitive." But, he concedes: "It is one of the biggest magazine markets in the world (on a per capita basis)."

Moreover, there seems to be space on the newsstands. "It's an interesting place for us," Toksvig says. "They don't really have any celebrity magazines." But there are other titles that do a similar job. Roger Camplisson, the managing director of Initiative Australia, says: "In Australia, the weekly market is very cluttered and we have seven paid-for weekly magazines. Two of these titles are celebrity focused."

Competition aside, OK! has potential issues with distribution and pricing.

Supermarkets account for a large percentage of magazine sales in the country, but the racking is not designed to take OK!'s oversize format. And its premium pricing might be a no-no. The recent launch of the food magazine Fresh went in on a cut-price ticket but still didn't meet targets.

But Northern & Shell Pacific is forging ahead. Based in Sydney, it has a chief executive in the shape of Andrew Cowell, a former creative director of Kerry Packer's ACP, which publishes many of OK!'s potential rivals. With OK!, he's planning a mix of the more international content in the UK edition and some local celebrity gossip.

The media agencies are keen to see it hit the market, but not sure of its chances. Davies is optimistic: "OK! is a recognised brand and has a strong proposition with a point of difference so has the potential to be a success."

Camplisson is less confident. He's concerned about distribution, cover price and the Packer power at ACP. But it's not impossible. "We believe that if OK! is prepared to invest heavily in getting the magazine up and running in this fiercely competitive arena then it will take off," he says.

Launch date: Late summer 2004

Publisher: Northern & Shell Pacific (a wholly owned subsidiary of

Northern & Shell)

Typical advertisers: None confirmed, but targeting local and

international

Potential advertisers: Beauty/cosmetics brands such as Revlon, L'Oreal;

prestige brands; fashion such as Esprit Rival publications Woman's Day,

New Idea, NW, Who, Women's Weekly, Marie Claire, InStyle

Frequency: Monthly

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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