Media: Double Standards - 'Just ask our readers if they think we're boring'

The heads of two B2B publishing companies talk about rebranding PPA Professional and changing the public's opinion of professional titles.

TIM WELLER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, INCISIVE MEDIA

Why have business-to-business magazines been rebranded as professional magazines?

The magazines about their sectors are an essential part of professionals' working lives. The rebranding of the sector under the PPA Professional banner is designed to recognise this.

What's the secret of being a successful professional magazine publisher?

Be part of the fabric of the community you serve. Have brands that deliver must-know, must-have business intelligence to your chosen markets in print, in person and online. In doing so, you no longer just cover the industries you serve, you become a player in those industries.

What's hot in professional publishing?

The British. We are world leaders. Just look who is exporting the talent. There is a British publishing invasion in the US, not the other way round. We lead in design, editorial standards and innovation.

Do you think professional magazines are seen as being the unglamorous end of publishing by the ad industry?

Yes! But not by the professionals who read them. They are very passionate about them, they trust them and read them with an intensity far greater than other media. They make decisions based on them. Professional magazines become an essential part of their working lives.

What should professional magazines be doing to get on press schedules?

Banging the drum and banging it loud. We need to train our people better and equip them with the toolkit to demonstrate just how effective advertising in professional media is. It is targeted and is acted on by the people who buy their clients' products.

Why are you launching a professional magazine ad campaign?

We are launching this campaign at a time when most professional markets are improving and we want to promote how effective the professional press is at delivering marketing return on investment. We also have access to the best medium for reaching business decision-makers - the professional press.

What do you think of advertising creativity in professional titles? What could be done to improve it?

I think the standards of creativity are excellent, as demonstrated by the participants in the PPA Professional advertising awards announced last week (3 May). In general, I think the standards are great and we should stop those creative snobs who knock it.

Do you have a favourite business title?

The Economist and I couldn't live without my Bloomberg terminal.

What do you do in your spare time?

I adore the mountains and spend as much time in my chalet with my family as I possibly can. I also go shooting a disgusting number of days a year.

Who do you most admire outside of work and why?

The former England rugby union captain Martin Johnson is a great leader of people, who gained respect from all his team through leading by example and setting extraordinarily high standards.

What's your greatest extravagance?

My wife, without a doubt. She can move markets and economies even on the shortest of breaks!

BERNARD GRAY, CHAIRMAN, PPA PROFESSIONAL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CMP INFORMATION

Why have business-to-business magazines been rebranded as professional magazines?

"Professional" better describes the diversity of the readers. It includes magazines that are aimed at people such as nurses, town planners and psychologists. These people are professionals rather than being in a trade or business.

What's the secret of being a successful professional magazine publisher?

Attention to detail. Being close to your customers' needs. A feel for ink under your fingers, an eye for a story and for design.

What's hot in professional publishing?

The internet is back in fashion, but definitely as a complementary rather than a replacement medium. I would like professional publishing to borrow some of the style from high-tone consumer magazines. How to Spend It with the Weekend FT is a great idea. I wish I had thought of it.

Do you think professional magazines are seen as being the unglamorous end of publishing by the ad industry?

Perhaps by some who do not spend time with the titles. But that's really our fault: we haven't spent the time talking to people about what's great in our business. When I go round and talk to the talented people working for us, the idea that what we do is boring seems incredible.

What should professional magazines be doing to get on press schedules?

We have to get our message across about how we precisely target the decision-makers whom advertisers and agencies want to reach. People talk about the internet offering opportunities for customisation, but that is what has been going on in magazines for ever. We offer precisely defined audiences that advertisers want to influence. What we need to do is explain that more clearly.

Why are you launching a professional magazine ad campaign?

It's part of our effort to get that message across. We started our advocacy campaign around a year ago, giving our senior sales people tools that can explain why advertising works and what magazines can do for them. Now we are going above the line and rebranding. We are very serious about this, and more work will follow.

What do you think of advertising creativity in professional titles? What could be done to improve it?

I think the lack of creativity is another myth. Glamour has often been associated with TV because of big audiences, but I could put together a pretty good five-minute ad break of terrible TV ads, and another of stunning TV spots. The same is true of business magazines. Examples of poor ads exist, but there is plenty of creativity too.

Do you have a favourite business title?

Travel Trade Gazette is my current favourite of our magazines. Away from CMP Information, Incisive's financial magazines are very strong and Risk is a great title.

What do you do in your spare time?

Train for the marathon. Soak my feet.

Who do you most admire outside of work and why?

Dave Gilmour: I wish I could make the guitar sing the way he does.

What's your greatest extravagance?

Sleeping on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon.