Media: Double Standards - 'Digital plays to customer publishing's strengths'

Far from being an ailing industry, and under threat from the digital arena, customer publishing is in rude health, two supremos in the field say.

JASON FROST - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, PUBLICIS BLUEPRINT

- What are some of the new customer publishing channels available to advertisers?

Any medium that you can imagine is available to us for our clients.

- Do dedicated TV channels and online offer greater customer participation and interactivity for brands than magazines?

Each medium is so different. It is better to think of the customer as a living, learning, communicating person, who will be touched by a vast range of media throughout their life. Clients can become part of that.

- Are customer magazines in decline because of these new channels?

No. We are growing faster than any other medium apart from online.

- What do you think is the driving factor behind this growth?

I think it's a combination of our new measurability, together with more entrants to the market.

- How competitive is the market?

It's unbelievably competitive. Anyone with a bit of an entrepreneurial flair, a Mac and a dream can get started in this business!

- How can advertisers best use customer publishing?

We do our best work when our clients allow us to become embedded in their business as a valued strategic partner.

- Ad revenue dropped by 19 per cent in customer magazines in 2005. Is this a worrying trend?

We didn't notice it!

- Are customer magazines less reliant on traditional ad revenues owing to sponsorship and other revenue sources?

Less reliant than conventional magazines, yes.

- What would you say are your best product innovations?

We are able to send a customer a personalised e-zine in their own language, with embedded movies, games and magazine-style interactivity, and we can ask them to tell us how much they love it.

- What impact is digital having on customer publishing?

It has enabled us to do just about everything better. More frequent, more in-depth communication, more creative, because our imagination doesn't have to be held back by the mundanities of print and postage.

- What would you say are the biggest challenges facing customer publishing in 2007?

Finding the most practical and beneficial ways to use new media channels for our clients and coping with growth.

- What is your favourite customer publishing title?

Asda Magazine. Six million women love reading it every month; the excitement of that and what it means for Asda's business never gets old for me.

KEITH GRAINGER - CHIEF EXECUTIVE, REDWOOD

- What are some of the new customer publishing channels available to advertisers?

Wherever content that attracts the attention of consumers goes, opportunities for advertisers will follow. However, with branded content, the "provider brand" must decide if allowing advertising adds to or detracts from the customer experience.

- Do dedicated TV channels and online offer greater customer participation and interactivity for brands than magazines?

No. The DMA Participation Media study showed that customer magazines out-scored every other communication channel, including TV and online, in relation to relevance, generating positive responses and "pass on".

- Are customer magazines in decline because of these new channels?

No. According to Mintel, the industry was worth £680 million in 2006, and it is forecast to be worth around £1 billion in 2011. We are seeing unprecedented levels of new entrants into our market.

- What do you think is the driving factor behind this growth?

Marketing directors recognise the need to talk to customers on their terms, to entertain them and to add value by offering useful information. It is this interaction that is driving the irrefutable evidence of effectiveness, which makes the business case for customer magazines so compelling.

- How competitive is the market?

The Association of Publishing Agencies now has 37 member agencies of various capabilities, which represent around 90 per cent of the industry, so draw your own conclusions. We're involved in pitching for new launches, rather than existing work, so Jason [Frost] and I rarely fall out, which is fortunate for him. He's a big bloke, but he's out of shape.

- How can advertisers best use customer publishing?

Be creative. Don't just think about the coverage, think about how you can work with the magazine brand owner to create complementary creative ideas.

- Ad revenue dropped by 19 per cent in customer magazines in 2005. Is this a worrying trend?

If that's correct, it's not our experience at Redwood. We're seeing revenue growth in the titles that do carry advertising.

- Are customer magazines less reliant on traditional ad revenues owing to sponsorship and other revenue sources?

Customer publishers are becoming less reliant on ad revenues. This is because clients increasingly realise what the value of investing in a customer magazine is. The focus has shifted to product quality and return on investment, which far outweighs the ad subsidy.

- What would you say are your best product innovations?

Digital plays to customer publishing's strengths as providers of content ideas, which connect with customers on whichever platform they choose to engage with it. The movies Redwood makes for Land Rover's "go beyond" site are a terrific example of our stretch.

- What impact is digital having on customer publishing?

Our Parenting Club for Boots. It combines magazines targeted by life stage, a website and e-mail campaigns. It's the biggest of its kind in the UK, and is a proven sales driver.

- What would you say are the biggest challenges facing customer publishing in 2007?

We are never satisfied - so the ongoing challenge is to convert the unconverted in the UK and overseas. Having offices in three continents helps us with this.

- What is your favourite customer publishing title?

Your M&S magazine. It's the reason I joined Redwood. It was the catalyst for the growth of the biggest sector of the industry. Marks & Spencer led and others followed.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).