Media: All about ... IPC Media Digital Sales

The publisher has amalgamated its digital operations.

IPC currently has more divisions than an army general would know what to do with. With innumerable factions such as IPC Ignite, IPC Connect and IPC Inspire, the publisher risks running out of motivational verbs for the IPC acronym to precede.

So try to momentarily suspend your confusion while another unit is added to the mix. Last week, the company introduced IPC Media Digital Sales, which combines digital advertising sales across all of the publisher's brands. While this all bodes very well for an internal company five-a-side championship, is a digital sales division a commercially astute step for the business?

IPC, which sees digital as a fundamental part of its future, certainly thinks so. And, rather than adding to the confusion, the new division will make things a whole lot simpler, the company says.

The new department, headed by Sam Finlay, the former group advertising director for IPC Ig- nite, provides one point of contact for advertisers to access the company's digital brands, from marieclaire.co.uk and nuts.co.uk to whatsontv.co.uk. To head up the ad operations team, which sits alongside the sales outfit and will work as a production unit, IPC has hired Harry Harcus, the head of operations for AOL Advertising.

Creating a single digital division might appear a surprising move as media agencies busily restructure their buying departments to trade across the spectrum of media channels. But IPC says the launch of the division is in response to feedback from buyers who wanted to have one point of contact for digital buying, rather than several different ports of call across the individual IPC departments. The media owner's multiplatform deals, meanwhile, continue to be handled by its solutions team.

The new division is still in the formative stages, and Finlay is currently ironing out the specifics with his new team. The new digital sales department is expected to be up and running from the end of October. And the launch is timely for the publisher. Finlay says that IPC, a company with its heritage firmly in print, sees digital as a major growth area and he believes the new division will take the publisher to the next level.

1. IPC Media, under its chief executive, Evelyn Webster, has made several changes to its ad sales recently. In a move the company said was aimed at providing agencies with easier access to brands, the publisher recently shifted the ad teams for its Now and Look titles into its weekly trading teams, which encompass IPC Connect and the TV division IPC TX.

2. The publisher has decided to invest in its advertising operations despite the constraints of a recession. The company is currently looking to recruit a managing director of advertising, after deciding against folding the role into Webster's duties. The managing director will replace Caroline McDevitt, who left in December last year.

3. While a digital sales division may be a first for IPC, it's not new for the industry. Bauer Media has been in this territory before and notably made a hasty exit. In the dotcom boom, the company, then known as Emap, launched a digital ad sales division to house its online brands called Emap Digital. A few years later, when the boom went bust, the division was merged into the publisher's cross media-sales team.

4. The new IPC Media Digital Sales team is made up of 39 staff, comprising 27 digital advertising personnel and 12 advertising operations staff, working across IPC's five publishing divisions, which include Southbank, the women's lifestyle and home interest division; IPC Connect, the women's weekly division; TX, the TV division; and IPC Inspire, the specialist titles division.

5. IPC saw a hefty 8.9 per cent drop in its total ABC circulation figure for its brands in January to June this year, with a 5.6 per cent drop on the previous period, with some key titles, especially in the men's and music sectors, taking a hit. The company, meanwhile, reports strong growth for its online brands and chose to include ABCe figures for Nuts.co.uk, NME.co.uk and Loaded.co.uk with print ABC data for the first time. IPC has been investing in its digital brands, including a relaunch for womanandhome.co.uk and the new £1 million pay-to-play football game on its Nuts website.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...

IPC

- IPC will have the opportunity to deliver on online brands, which often take second place to print titles in multiplatform deals.

- The company hopes it will profit from greater scale when going to market, as the move allows it to sell digital advertising according to audience such as females or young males, rather than individual brands.

- However, critics of this approach suggest that trading the online element of a brand separately could restrict revenue growth rather than build it.

- The new team benefits from having people, such as Sam Finlay, who have a deep understanding of the magazine brands, as well as digital expertise.

AGENCIES

- The new division will provide one clear point of contact for digital buying, instead of individual reps across different publishing divisions.

- Advertising can be bought according to audience rather than according to brand, which means agencies can reach bigger numbers for their clients.

- Vanessa Clifford, the head of press at Mindshare, says the restructure more accurately reflects how buyers operate. She comments: "Rarely do you look at the solution on a brand level as solutions tend to cover more than one title."

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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).