The Guardian pitch reflects wider marketmalaise

The British Press Awards have been dogged by controversy since they were bought by Piers Morgan and Matthew Freud last year.

Their validity has come into question because three of the biggest UK newspaper groups have boycotted them (Telegraph, Daily Mail, Express). However, Monday night's decision to hand Newspaper of the Year to The Guardian was as uncontroversial as they come.

The post-relaunch Guardian is the best-designed newspaper around; easy to navigate for a time-poor readership. So it should be. It cost £80 million to bring to life. That's the kind of expenditure shareholders and proprietors don't sign off, the kind that only those papers owned by a non-profit-seeking trust could permit.

The readership figures post-redesign are heading in the right direction.

Circulation has risen, year on year, by 4.4 per cent. This is from a low base, so it's certainly not going to cover the £80 million investment.

However, in these troubled times for newspapers, any readership measurement figure that's not preceded by a minus sign is something of an achievement.

In addition, the organisation is starting to reap the rewards of standing by its digital strategy despite the dotcom crash. Guardian Unlimited is now reaching a global audience of liberal thinkers. In the US, its position on the Iraq war has given it status over and above the often-unquestioning local media.

But with a Newspaper of the Year gong in its back pocket, isn't it a little harsh to threaten the advertising agency that helped it achieve its goals by calling a review? The Guardian hired the old BMP just over five years ago. It then stayed true while that agency was transformed into DDB London by Paul Hammersley and David Hackworthy.

However, cliche though it is, this is a people business and Hammersley and Hackworthy have moved on (no doubt their new agency The Red Brick Road will occupy a central position on the forthcoming pitchlist). So too has Andrew Fraser, the long-time lead creative on the account, who has recently quit to join FCB.

But greater reflection indicates that the review is also about tension in the newspaper market. Nobody in newspapers can afford to sit still just now. The people changes at DDB have given The Guardian the excuse it needs to seek new ideas and solutions from new partners.

The publisher's forthcoming restructure involving the creation of two new divisions is not about a holistic approach, but rather diversification.

Advertising revenues are on the decline. The latest Advertising Association figures show that ad expenditure in national newspapers fell by 3 per cent. Online spend, meanwhile, went up by 73 per cent. The obvious solution is online investment, something Rupert Murdoch has been shouting about lately (and his acquisition of MySpace.com for $580 million shows he means business).

Newspapers are thinking laterally and behaving bravely, but they have little choice.

The BBC is launching its first branding campaign for nine years this weekend. Not only that, but Juan Cabral, the Fallon creative behind Sony "balls", is behind it. Surely this is cause for some excitement?

Unfortunately not. All of you who expect an emotive film along the lines of Leagas Delaney's wonderful "Perfect Day" will be disappointed. The endline, "this is what we do", follows a variety of vignettes from the best of BBC programming, including the ubiquitous David Brent dance scene from The Office and journalists braving hazardous circumstances in order to cover the Iraq war.

Using elephant-like subtlety, the BBC nicks some of our airtime to justify the licence fee. This is a self-conscious commercial, which exposes the BBC's fears as effectively as it demonstrates its strengths.

- Claire Beale is on maternity leave.

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