OPINION: Question Time with ... Mike Anderson - Metro’s maestro knows the value of a media moment, Colin Grimshaw discovers

Metro managing director Mike Anderson has been hobbled. Not by rival regional publishers, as one might suspect, but by fellow players during a ruck while playing rugby for London Scottish.

Metro managing director Mike Anderson has been hobbled. Not by

rival regional publishers, as one might suspect, but by fellow players

during a ruck while playing rugby for London Scottish.



The resulting snapped ligament has brought an end to his rugby career

but the breakneck pace he has been keeping up over the past 12 months is

unlikely to slow down. During that time he has built Metro - initially a

defensive barrier to a Swedish publisher’s incursion into London - into

Britain’s first free national newspaper, with an ABC figure of almost

700,000.



But Anderson believes he has done much more than that, claiming to have

invented a whole new medium, no less. Research reveals that Metro is

read daily for 20 minutes by 15- to 44-year-old ABC1 commuters who

didn’t previously read newspapers. This, Anderson argues, means Metro is

delivering a unique, captive audience for a fixed period each day. He

calls it ’the Metro moment’.



’We have a unique relationship with commuters at the beginning of the

day when their minds are uncluttered,’ he says. ’And this will become

increasingly valuable as media fragments.’



In support of his argument, Anderson tells of a recent Metro competition

that solicited 68,000 responses - from 10 per cent of the readership -

with 40,000 coming in via e-mail. Anderson’s objective is to collect

this data and use it in future e-mail promotions.



His immediate task is to convince agencies that the ’Metro moment’ has

greater value than ads in regional newspapers. In doing this, he is

attempting to benchmark Metro against posters, radio and TV, which are

also consumed in the morning.



To present such a radical sales argument, Anderson has constructed an

innovative sales structure that borrows greatly from his agency

background. In the place of ad directors, ad managers and group heads,

he has heads of planning, trading and brand controls, supported by brand

managers and assistant brand managers.



’Agencies have planner/buyers but media owners don’t have

planner/sellers,’ says Anderson. ’Consequently, there is no

understanding of consumers’ relationships with their media and no value

put on those relationships.



’We needed to engage further up the chain, going beyond the simple

placement of ads by getting involved in clients’ communications

strategies. To do this, you need to have different sets of skills and we

are at the early stages of delivering this.’



But he is frustrated by the ’old thinking’ that measures Metro on a

cost-per-thousand basis. Having delivered an ABC audit and British

Market Research Bureau demographic data, he claims that his attempts to

get on the NRS are being resisted and he is seriously contemplating

applying to put Metro on Rajar.



Anderson is in his third spell at Associated and, though he enjoyed his

intervals with CIA Medianetwork and New PHD, he confesses to being a

natural salesman and is proud of it. He got his break in media sales

when he met the managing director of Publicis in Scotland at a party and

told him that his client, Renault, didn’t understand its target

audience. ’He told me I was talking bullshit but referred me to The

Scotsman’s ad director, who gave me a job because of my cheek.’





Anderson on working in agencies



’Agencies work very hard for their small crust but I can recommend the

experience. You learn a lot about communications and planning. However,

agencies could learn a lot about service from media owners.’



Topics