MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON: AMRA - Amra’s acquisition boosts its regional press selling ability. But will the merger create a sales house monopoly? Alasdair Reid investigates

By ALASDAIR REID, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 20 November 1998 12:00AM

There was almost universal praise last week for the way that the Amra acquisition by Trinity was presented to media agencies. One buyer even said this was the most blatant example of industry honesty he could remember. Amra, should you have missed it, chose the occasion to concede that it hasn’t been doing the most brilliant job in the world recently.

There was almost universal praise last week for the way that the

Amra acquisition by Trinity was presented to media agencies. One buyer

even said this was the most blatant example of industry honesty he could

remember. Amra, should you have missed it, chose the occasion to concede

that it hasn’t been doing the most brilliant job in the world

recently.



This, admittedly, was part of a ’things can only get better’ public

relations strategy. But compared with the mind-numbing banality of your

standard ’the world may have been wonderful before but now it’s going to

be orgasmically wonderful’ spin, it was refreshing.



Perhaps, though, this was cunning psychology - the ultimate double

bluff.



Amra’s new parent company, Trinity, is the country’s largest publisher

of regional newspapers - with 120 titles. Amra (the name will be

retained under its new owners) will add the Trinity titles to its

existing portfolio of 75, thus leapfrogging Mediaforce to become the

UK’s largest regional press sales house.



Amra now represents just less than a quarter of the market by

circulation.



Surely that market clout is a worry to buyers and clients?



Not really. Neil Hepburn, the director of regional media at BMP Optimum,

says: ’There was a lot of nonsense written about this last week. This is

not about controlling the market. Size is a peripheral issue. Amra is

the biggest regional press sales house. So what?



’The point is that regional money can go into other media and we all

know that. The point is about selling the medium and its real strengths

- that is not something that’s always been a priority.’



The idea is that Amra will not only keep its current highly respected

team under the chief executive, Mike McCormack, but now guarantee

resources and a commitment to marketing the medium.



Jo Stead, the managing director of New PHD’s regional press specialist,

Space Station, agrees - a further concentration of power will not create

anything more than a marginal shift in market dynamics.



’The industry has become panicky about previous mergers but in the end

it has not caused much trouble. We’ve got used to the idea,’ she

says.



But there are other potential flies in the ointment. Malcolm Denmark,

the chief executive of Mediaforce, reportedly asserted last week that

Amra would find it hard to act as both Trinity’s sales department and an

independent sales point for other publishers. Or, put the other way

around: other publishers might question where Amra’s loyalties lie.



Denmark is obviously unhappy that he is about to lose a number of

Trinity titles currently represented by his company. But many observers

believe he has a fair point.



Stead is of the view that the dust hasn’t begun to settle yet. She

comments: ’It’s never nice to see companies like Mediaforce losing

business when they’ve been doing such a good job on it, but Amra may

have to lose some business and Mediaforce might pick it up.



’On the other hand, Amra certainly has the personnel and resources to

make it work. If Trinity doesn’t take its eye off the ball, then this

move may well be of value to agencies and their clients.’



If there are few monopoly worries in the creation of this bigger Amra

entity, there are also few logistical advantages. It won’t mean, for

instance, that it will take fewer phone calls to place the business.

Regional press, as ever, will remain a complex matrix. No one-stop shop

here.



But there is widespread consensus that Amra integrity plus new resource

equals good news. Hepburn states: ’Of course, there are always potential

causes for concern, but you have to say the no bullshit way in which it

has admitted its previous mistakes speaks volumes about the company.’



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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