MEDIA: HEADLINER; IPC’s Mr Average prepares for another trend-setting launch

Andy McDuff turns offbeat dreams into viable reality, Anne-Marie Crawford says

Andy McDuff turns offbeat dreams into viable reality, Anne-Marie

Crawford says



It’s the hottest day of the year. Andy McDuff, the publishing director

at IPC Magazines, is trying to find the coolest room in King’s Reach

Tower so that he can tell me all about Eat Soup, the new cooking, eating

and travel magazine.



To help him do it, he’s assembled an impressive phalanx of fellow IPC

stalwarts who have all worked their proverbials off to make this baby

happen: the editor, David Lancaster (ex-Good Food, came up with the

idea), editor-in-chief, Alan Wilson, and Nick Taylor, the advertisement

director.



They’re all milling about awkwardly in McDuff’s office while his

secretary fixes us a suitably chilled-out meeting room.



The quirkily-named Eat Soup is the latest launch from IPC’s Specialist

Group stable and will be the sixth magazine McDuff has overseen from

inception to board approval in his current role.



It’s worth reeling off just some of those names so you can see what

calibre of launch we could be talking here. They are Vox, Soccer Stars,

Goal, Musik and... Loaded.



Yes, McDuff launched Loaded, the publishing success of the 90s, the

magazine that leapt 82 per cent in the latest round of ABCs, and for

which last month McDuff snatched the PPA’s Consumer Publisher of the

Year award for an unheard-of second time.



Add to that the fact that he’s been at IPC for 20 years, and was its

youngest publisher at 29, and you’d think McDuff would have a profile

for England.



Not a bit of it. Profiles seem to be the preserve of the creative types

at IPC, the James Browns and the Sally O’Sullivans, the ideas people,

those who dream it. McDuff is the sort who translates the dream into a

commercially viable proposition. It may be half as glamorous, but it’s

equally important.



It’s clear he has a lot of admiration for the left-field thinkers of

this world and adds wistfully that he would love to be creative. He

tried hard to be a journalist in Clacton when he was younger, applying

to Essex County Newspapers. He failed to make the grade and says he

doesn’t know why. Twenty years on you get the feeling he’d still like an

answer.



McDuff sees himself as a ‘man in a suit’. Yet despite the fact that

he’s only one step away from the board, he still gets an obvious buzz

from rapping with creatives.



It’s almost tempting to wonder how McDuff made it so far (maybe after 20

years they give you an honorary publisher’s title), he just seems too,

well, normal. Still, it’s often the quiet ones you have to watch.

Funnily enough, I ran into a group of IPC staffers at a party the day

after I met McDuff and they were only too happy to dish some dirt. Yes,

that pleasant blokish act hid something darker (cheques to my home

address please, Andy).



McDuff, meanwhile, is happy to play Mr Average. Ask him what he does

outside work and he thinks for a moment. ‘I should say something like

bungee jumping here, shouldn’t I?’ he grins. ‘I’m afraid I have no

quirky hobbies, I’m so boring.’ OK, so his first job was as a lifeguard

on Clacton beach in the summer of 1976, which is different, I grant you.

But the system got him in the end.



Outside work, he seems to be in- to his family big time (cute pictures

of babies reading Shoot are plastered all over his office). He’s tried

golf (Golf Monthly has recently been added to his portfolio of titles)

but it’s not really his thing. He’s more of a football man (and tips

Croatia as an outside bet for Euro 96, though for the sake of all his

football titles, naturally he wants England to do well).



McDuff’s feet-on-the-ground approach has not gone unnoticed. Neil Jones,

director of press at TMD Carat, says: ‘He’s charming but not in a smarmy

way, and he’s very shrewd.’



That other ordinary IPC bloke made good, the chief executive, Mike

Matthew, also has a lot of time for him. McDuff recalls that when he

became a publisher, Matthew took him aside and said: ‘Always be your own

man and never be afraid to make decisions. If you get 51 per cent of

them right I’ll support you. But if you get 51 per cent wrong, I’ll fire

you.’



McDuff must feel he has a certain amount of credit in the IPC bank at

the moment. He’ll have to wait a good few months yet to find out whether

Eat Soup has been a sound investment, but McDuff is not in this game for

the short term.



The McDuff file



1977 IPC, telesales executive, (NME)

1978 Practical Hi-Fi, advertising representative

1979 NME, ad sales executive

1981 New Generation, advertising sales executive

1982 Melody Maker, assistant advertising manager

1983 Melody Maker, advertising manager

1984 Holborn Group, assistant publisher

1987 NME, Melody Maker, publisher

1988 Holborn Group, group publisher

1991 Specialist Group, publishing director



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