MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Hollick’s initiative could be stymied by sibling rivalries

Ain’t life a bitch. You think everything’s fine and dandy and then it isn’t. Step forward Andrew Cameron, former managing director of Express Newspapers, kicked in the balls just at the very moment that his dream deal became a reality (Campaign, last week).

Ain’t life a bitch. You think everything’s fine and dandy and then it

isn’t. Step forward Andrew Cameron, former managing director of Express

Newspapers, kicked in the balls just at the very moment that his dream

deal became a reality (Campaign, last week).



There are those, of course, who say that Lord Hollick is the real

architect of this plan. After all, if his TSMS TV sales house can sell

Cracker all over the country, why can’t one sales force sell page eight

of the Telegraph, the Express and the Star? But some of the credit - if

it works - must surely go to Cameron, who first touted the idea some

three years ago to his arch-rivals at Associated. And, of course, there

are some powerful attractions in it - sufficient for Lords Rothermere

and Stevens to put aside their traditional enmities long enough to at

least talk about it seriously.



And why not? According to some calculations, putting together printing,

distribution and ad sales would have saved the noble lords at least

pounds 30 million a year, and one must assume that savings of a similar

magnitude will occur with this deal. Very seductive.



But cutting costs is only one part of the equation and the real test

must surely come from the bringing together of the ad sales teams. Here

the jury must be out.



Tempting as it is to draw parallels between the press and TV, are they

really there? Nobody would deny that critical mass is as important in

press as in TV, but the point is that it has to be the right mass.



Now for the competitive element. While the different TV companies

compete, it is in a limited manner and they certainly have no ultimate

wish, as the newspapers do, to put a rival station out of business. You

might then argue that, in competitive terms, the Express and Telegraph

are to each other as Meridian and Granada - that is, not very

competitive. But I’m not so sure. The most likely place for the Daily

Telegraph to attract new sales is in the upper-middle market. Given the

Star’s positioning the same must apply to the Express. Both papers have

older age profiles, so again they must fight on the same ground for new

readers. Last, the Daily Mail is unassailable in its female heartland,

so the Express must go for men (for example, with sports supplements),

but that male readership is the core of the Daily Telegraph.



So if the papers are jostling for the same readers, what about the ad

sales teams? Are they not going to spend more time fighting each other -

we all know about sibling rivalry - than the competition outside? This

is a weakness that any agency buyer will be quick to exploit and use to

drive a wedge between the two sides.



Of course, if a large chunk of the savings are reinvested in the papers,

the people and the marketing budget, then the sales team will be selling

a rising sales curve. But my suspicion is that the temptation to pocket

the savings will be too strong, and the new group’s only argument will

be mass.



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