Media: Strategy Analysis - Souping up the launch of a car mag

Brand: Test Drive magazine

Client: Dennis Publishing

Brief: Launch Test Drive magazine

Target audience: Broad spectrum of 25- to 50-year-old men with focus on

young men

Budget: £2 million

AGENCIES

Media: Guy Abrahams, Phil Harper, Karen Pearce, Charlotte Kerr, Nick

Drew, BLM Media

Creative: DFGW

STRATEGY In May 2004, BLM Media was appointed to launch Test Drive magazine for Dennis Publishing. Dennis had identified a gap in the market for a magazine that had the objectivity of What Car? with the reading enjoyment of Top Gear, while avoiding Top Gear's celebrity-driven dogma. The Test Drive proposition went further, involving the views of real people, reader interactivity and a modern sense of humour.

Test Drive needed to communicate the authority of the magazine and help people recognise it on the newsstands. BLM's communications strategy was to deliver a deep understanding of the magazine with an identity that was clearly signposted at point of sale.

Potential readers could be divided into two categories - people who were into car magazines and people who were buying cars. Priority was given to the first category, predominantly young men with a love of anything to do with engines, motoring or cars.

Further analysis identified their favourite radio stations (Virgin and talkSPORT) and non-motoring TV (football, sci-fi including Buffy, Star Trek and Angel, and youth TV including The Simpsons and Jackass). They also had a high tendency to notice all outdoor formats. BLM also analysed where and when they bought car magazines. Activity used broadcast media to maximise coverage.

EXECUTION

- Television A programme-led schedule ensured Test Drive was advertised in anything on air that was motoring related: World Rally, Fifth Gear, Pump My Ride, Scrapheap Challenge, Road Raja and the Audi Le Mans 24-hour race. Airtime was focused on key sales weeks and, during launch week, key days were upweighted with male-targeted programmes.

- Radio For the launch week, BLM chose to run a Test Drive promotion with Pete & Geoff on Virgin Radio. The promotion, mechanic, prize, and even the DJs' sense of humour all reflected elements of the editorial proposition.

On talkSPORT, BLM produced a weekly show, featuring editorial staff and formatted in the style of Test Drive editorial. The show was backed up with a national campaign focused around key shopping periods, talking about this month's editorial features, as well as with point-of-sale radio in 5,000 newsagents.

- Outdoor While car enthusiasts were the main priority, prospective car buyers were also an important market. BLM's insight was that car dealerships tended to be clustered on "gasoline alleys", which were often major thoroughfares with suitable outdoor locations. The agency built a package of these sites to display specially tailored copy.

To reinforce identity, point-of-purchase six-sheet packages were bought to dovetail with Dennis' in-store activity. Finally, production logistics and a contingency fund were set up in order to exploit the short-term outdoor market.

- Press BLM used Dennis' magazine portfolio, which features a wide range of male-interest titles, including Maxim and Viz, to support the launch.

PR/LAUNCH

BLM helped co-ordinate PR on "car chavs" in The Sun, and the launch party, at which BLM organised a Scalextric experience and prizes.

RESULTS

Test Drive will publish a debut ABC of more than 100,000. Dennis said its launch has created a significant increase in the retail sales value of the monthly motoring magazine market.

THE VERDICT - Ivan Pollard strategist, The Ingram Partnership

I don't drive. I never have done and maybe I never will.

I love my bike, I love my training shoes, I love the bus and I even love the train. I don't love cars.

So I am an interesting choice to judge BLM Media's work for the launch of Test Drive. Chalk up the first point for the media strategy - BLM got the media selection right because I never saw or heard the advertising.

They were after young men with a love of all things mechanical. I fail to trouble the judges on either of those counts.

BLM's strategy was no-nonsense, sensible media planning. They identified where these people and their passion met in the media world - motoring TV shows were supplemented with a neat blend of more inventive programmes to complement the tone and positioning of the magazine. Not rocket science, but it worked.

The TV - driven by smart, engaging ads from DFGW - was backed up with radio on those stations that we could all have guessed using good promotional mechanics.

So far, so good. The campaign had a solid backbone to put the title on the map. The next trick was to try to turn that recognition and potential interest into purchase.

BLM worked hard with outdoor and in-store radio and added a little spice with PR and events. There could have been more emphasis on point-of-sale, and some smart thinking about how to get the product into people's hands (car showrooms, sports clinics, motorway service stations, pubs, football changing rooms and Spearmint Rhino) could have been explored.

Nevertheless, this seems a solid, effective piece of communications planning.

Why is it that you now expect me to write something that begins with: "But ..."? Why do we not applaud people who have the balls to do what works rather than what makes them famous?

I guess it is because as the war for people's attention grows ever fiercer, you sometimes need that little bit of magic dust to really cut through.

But sometimes you don't.

This campaign worked. The results speak for themselves. This was an effective partnership between creative and planning that launched the magazine successfully into a crowded market. Good job.