CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/FHM - FHM hopes TV advertising will help it rediscover past success

A 20 per cent slide in sales in the July to December ABCs appears to have convinced FHM to abandon one of the unwritten rules of lads' mag marketing - and return to TV advertising.

Emap's flagship men's title was the last lads' mag to launch a major TV campaign - a series of Bartle Bogle Hegarty ads back in 1998 that showed men being given a "FHM warning for not behaving how "lads should. The title has been absent from the small screen since, but last week's appointment of Leo Burnett was accompanied by hints of a return to such activity.

FHM's circulation slide saw its ABC cut to 570,719. The figure still almost beats the combined sale of its two closest rivals, Loaded and Maxim, but the market leader still appears to have been hurt by a lack of fresh thinking.

Steve Goodman, the group press director at MediaCom, says that FHM was a victim of its own success, as competitors copied traditional sales-driving features such as "100 Sexiest Women".

"The big loss in the last circulation figures was down to too many titles doing very much the same thing, he says. "Jack is trying something different and Esquire is moving away from tits and arse editorial coverage. They have lost an element of circulation but have developed a core readership that's important to advertisers."

Like Maxim, which also suffered in the ABCs, FHM is attempting to develop its appeal to both readers and advertisers with a slightly more upmarket look. Unlike its rival though, FHM seems ready to move beyond the traditional lads' mags' dependency on promotions marketing to back the move.

"We are looking at the role of different types of marketing, FHM's group marketing manager, Nial Ferguson, says. "Traditionally men's magazines have relied on cover promotions to drive sales."

Ferguson says that changing attitudes toward the title is crucial. "When we worked with BBH one of the key tasks we had was to drive awareness levels, he says, by way of illustration. "We had overtaken Loaded but we were still behind on awareness levels."

Tim Kirkman the press director at Carat, says that lads' mags' budgets don't stretch to the kind of campaigns that launched Glamour and InStyle last year.

"Their budgets can't afford TV, he says. "There's a certain amount of sense in men's mags taking the promotion route because of the type of people they are trying to reach. For out and about lads, football is the only TV they watch."

Ferguson's promotions over the past few months have been as good as anyone's.

FHM's Pub in a Bag wrap that launched the title's new look was creatively strides ahead of the traditional glossy covermount. However, he hints that they can only take the title so far. "The women's market has been around a lot longer than the men's market, he says. "Women's magazines have got to the point where promotions still work but they need to go that one step beyond."

FHM, with its own publishing division within Emap and a circulation that still dwarfs many of the women's glossies, is the one lads' mag with the resources to take the same step.

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