Media: Headliner - Guardian’s father-to-be plans to reveal his fun side at Emap/Stephen Palmer is keen to boost Emap’s multimedia output, Anna Griffiths says

Stephen Palmer, the marketing director of The Guardian and The Observer, is facing one of the most stressful periods of his life. He’s leaving the newspaper group after 13 years to take up a cross-media marketing post at Emap Performance, his wife is about to have their first child, and he’s in the process of moving house. ’Change management is something I’m becoming an expert in,’ Palmer observes in a typically wry tone.

Stephen Palmer, the marketing director of The Guardian and The

Observer, is facing one of the most stressful periods of his life. He’s

leaving the newspaper group after 13 years to take up a cross-media

marketing post at Emap Performance, his wife is about to have their

first child, and he’s in the process of moving house. ’Change management

is something I’m becoming an expert in,’ Palmer observes in a typically

wry tone.



Palmer, with his chubby, public schoolboy looks and City pinstripe suit,

is not someone you would naturally imagine in Emap’s music division,

which houses brands such as Q, Mixmag, Magic, Kiss FM and the TV

channel, The Box. Yet his first job was as a DJ on York’s Viking Radio

and, he claims: ’I have always been a bit of a soul boy - taking on

brands such as Kiss and Mixmag is very exciting.’



Carolyn McCall, the deputy managing director of Guardian Newspapers,

confirms that once Palmer sheds his pinstripes and leaves The Guardian

offices, he can be a bit of a party animal. ’He looks like a dealer in

the City, but underneath that he’s such good fun. He’s brilliant on the

dance floor, really funky. He’s this Jekyll and Hyde character, in that

he can be straight and then mad.’



While Palmer argues that he already has experience working across

multimedia, with The Guardian’s launch of its website network, Guardian

Unlimited, and The Guardian’s use of film and CD promotions, his job at

Emap will certainly be a step-change. Tim Schoonmaker, the chief

executive of Emap Performance, has appointed Palmer to hone the

multimedia marketing strategy, while Malcolm Cox will oversee marketing

across Emap’s group advertising sales and Emap Performance. Schoonmaker

says: ’We need to be more adept at making brands live across media.

We’re in the game of not creating new brands, but strengthening existing

ones.’



Palmer concedes that his new job will certainly be a challenge: ’One of

the reasons why I accepted the job is because it’s a bit scary and there

are lots of things to learn.’ He relishes the prospect of being part of

a ready-made multimedia environment, which sits well within the present

trend of convergence and consolidation, but knows the pressure will be

on to deliver this mix to consumers and advertisers, rather than merely

paying lip service.



Palmer is not one to crave the limelight and is considerably more low

profile than his predecessor, David Brook. McCall says: ’Stephen is a

fantastic implementer. David Brook, on the other hand, was a great ideas

man. Stephen wasn’t interested in the profile.’ But it would be wrong to

overlook Palmer’s achievements at The Guardian/Observer where, as part

of a team, he has helped replenish and build the brand during the launch

of The Independent, the price war and the promotions battles.



Roger Alton, the editor of The Observer, has worked closely with Palmer

to resurrect the Sunday newspaper, which was floundering in the face of

stiff competition. The friction that can exist between an editor and

marketing director is not evident between Palmer and Alton.



In fact, Alton is quite emotional about Palmer’s departure: ’It’s a real

blow for me because he’s done a great deal for this paper. He’s a very

good ideas person and is sought after by everybody. He’s also an

incredibly good executor.’



While some of us may balk at the ’Bollywood’ commercial by Ogilvy &

Mather for The Observer, the newspaper managed to haul itself back over

the 400,000 circulation mark and produce some year-on-year increases

towards the end of last year.



The Guardian, which went through a substantial redesign last spring, has

had a yo-yo circulation but has retained its overall status as a brand.

Palmer reflects: ’You do feel very much part of a family here - there’s

that phrase ’you can take a man out of The Guardian, but you can’t take

The Guardian out of a man’.’



Schoonmaker says that The Guardian was a natural place to find a

marketing chief for Emap Performance because of the brand’s

uniqueness.



Emap has also worked with Palmer on joint promotions, putting him topof

the hitlist.



But Palmer will have to wear his suit for a bit longer until Guardian

Newspapers finds his successor.



It may be a few months before he’s allowed to show more of his fun side,

but that’s probably just as well with the imminent arrival of Palmer

junior.



Asked which was more exciting - the new job or the new baby, Palmer

hesitates.



’I can’t believe you asked me that,’ he gasps, playing for time before

giving the PC answer. ’The baby, of course.’



THE PALMER FILE

1986

Viking Radio, DJ

1987

The Guardian, marketing assistant, rising to marketing executive

1990

The Guardian, marketing manager

1996

The Guardian/The Observer, marketing director

2000

Emap Performance, marketing director



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