Dynamo behind Sugar enjoys the bitter rivalry in the sector

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 16 August 1996 12:00AM

The rise of Sugar is linked to Louise Newton’s talents, Gordon MacMillan reports

The rise of Sugar is linked to Louise Newton's talents, Gordon MacMillan reports

Wanna hear about those sneaky sex tricks? The scheming ways that boys pull girls? Or maybe you want an answer to the question: 'Are bigger boobs better?' No? Well, it's probably not quite your scene and you probably aren't one of the 361,764 purchasers of Sugar, the teenage girls' magazine which last week celebrated a 37.8 per cent rise in its ABC.

Sugar's publisher, Louise Newton, is positively beaming about its storming success. During its short lifetime, the title has shaken up the mid-teenage girls' market, trouncing Emap's one-time flagship title, Just 17.

Newton too has changed beyond recognition. She just doesn't look like she's supposed to.

Let me clarify this. Before I headed over to Attic Futura's offices, a look at Newton's recent file picture revealed someone with straight auburn hair standing glumly in a London street. The blonde with long curly hair who strolled up and introduced herself bore less than a passing resemblance. If it wasn't for the faint Liverpudlian accent, she could have been anyone.

The success of Sugar has also taken a lot of people by surprise. And not just its battered competitor at Emap. The publisher has found a new hobby in constantly redesigning Just 17 - all to no avail, given its latest 33.6 per cent circulation fall.

But while Emap may put its hand up and declare itself rightly surprised, Newton magnanimously admits that Attic Futura is itself a little shocked.

Newton always thought Sugar would take some market share, but not in such a dramatic fashion. She says that 1994 was the right time for something new and Sugar tapped into the zeitgeist perfectly. It gave 14-,15- and 16-year-old girls exactly what they wanted: something new and different.

'David Bostock [creative director at Emap Metro] said 'Attic Futura is like a terrier at my heels'. It isn't a terrier any more - we have gone way beyond that. We thought we would piss Emap off and attract some glossy ads for the aspirational lifestyle image that we wanted.

What we are doing instead is taking major advertising deals from other magazines such as Marie Claire,' Newton comments.

She says this with more than a little glee. Newton thrives on the combative nature of the market, where you can be a winner one year and on the scrap-heap the next. Remember Emap's Now? Neither does anyone else.

The only criticism that seems to be directed at Newton is that, while she is a jolly nice person, she certainly didn't make Sugar a success all on her own. 'I think it annoys some people that she seems to take the credit for Sugar when it is down to the people who launched it, and not her,' one source says.

Another points out that, 'while the marketing has helped, it is by no means the only reason why Sugar has become a success'.

To be fair to Newton, though, she praises Sugar's editor, Joanne Elvin, and her editorial team, as well as the group ad director, Jayne Gorman.

'We have a very good editorial team,' Newton beams. Maybe the backbiting is just jealously.

But Attic Futura certainly isn't resting on its laurels. Newton talks cagily about launches and the fact that competitors are fighting back.

Emap has launched It's Bliss, which is currently trailing Sugar by a around 42,000 copies. Newton says the next six months will decide which one of them comes out on top.

'It's Bliss has a long way to go. We are watching it closely and we have project Fuck Bliss going. We're very confident,' she comments.

There is something about Newton's attitude to her work that seems to go beyond her dedication and 11-hour working days. According to John Rogers, a director of the Research Business, Newton is very single- minded about her work. 'She is very focused and professional about Sugar. The title is her prime objective. She is one of those dynamos who can blast her way through the crap.'

Kevin Whitchurch, the international publishing manager at North South,

which has a stake in Attic Futura, says she has an intuitive feel for the market. 'Newton is a good marketer who understands the young women's press and its readers. She is dedicated to the product.'

As a measure of her drive, Newton loves to talk about pulling big ad contracts away from magazines such as Marie Claire, which was originally to be the recipient of a 24-page Nike special promo that comes free with September's issue of Sugar.

'I love having a fight and I think I thrive on the rivalry. This is one of the most cut-throat industries you'll ever come across, and I do like that,' Newton says.

The Newton file

1989 Maxwell Business Communications, marketing assistant

1991 Emap Metro, marketing executive

1993 Emap Metro, product manager

1994 Attic Futura, publisher of Sugar

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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