OPINION: QUESTION TIME WITH ... Mike McCormack - Amra’s larger-than-life chief executive used to be a rock singer. By Colin Grimshaw

Apart from his wife of 30 years, Mike McCormack has three passions in life - Manchester United, music and the regional press. Get him started on any of these topics and you won’t be able to shut him up. Affable and forthright, Amra’s colourful chief executive is anything but boring.

Apart from his wife of 30 years, Mike McCormack has three passions

in life - Manchester United, music and the regional press. Get him

started on any of these topics and you won’t be able to shut him up.

Affable and forthright, Amra’s colourful chief executive is anything but

boring.



Today he is on particularly good form, having just returned from a

recuperative holiday in Australia following a serious illness. While he

was away, the Newspaper Society announced its initiatives to improve the

regional press’s share of national ad revenue and he is keen to lend

Amra’s support.



He explains: ’Chris Stanley (NS marketing director) has performed

miracles in persuading publishers to invest in the campaign and long may

it continue.



Our industry has often preached the value of advertising but without

then spending any money on promotional activity.



’That said, Chris’s budget is a fraction of radio’s and he should be

given a bigger war chest. With the fragmentation of TV and radio

audiences, regional press now has an opportunity that it would be crazy

to pass up.’



McCormack is particularly eager to see much more investment in

researching issues such as market segmentation and section reading. And

he feels very strongly that the Jicreg research should be improved.



’About half the data on Jicreg is model data. If publishers,

particularly of weekly papers, are serious about winning national

advertising they must have proper research that is refreshed every three

years.’



But he is keen to stress that the regional press is in good shape,

highlighting an improved editorial product and regionalised editions

from newspapers such as the West Midlands Express & Star. He also feels

that brand awareness is far greater now.



’But after these and the NS’s efforts, it would be unforgivable if the

London sales houses didn’t capitalise on all their hard work,’ he

comments. ’Regional press is being used as a tactical medium, when it

also has great value as a strategic medium.



The NS and Amra are trying to change that but I don’t know that all the

other London sales operations are.’



McCormack came to media sales because he was bored with accountancy, and

a friend in the business assured him he had all the right attributes -

especially the gift of the gab. The biggest influence on his career has

been his former Amra partner Malachi Doyle - ’the greatest visionary

that the industry has under-employed in the last 25 years’.



As a boy, McCormack was classically trained as a chorister, and his

musical past includes stints as a rock singer and a nightclub crooner in

a duo called Velvet Harmony. He has appeared on the same stage as Tommy

Cooper, Freddie Starr, Bruce Forsyth and a young Lisa Stansfield.



McCormack’s greatest moment was singing a duet with Johnny Mathis in the

back of a limo. His musical hero is John Lennon but his tastes are wide

- he recently saw Bryan Adams in concert and enjoyed Bizet’s The Pearl

Fishers at the Sydney Opera House .



The Manchester United season-ticket holder’s footballing idol is Denis

Law: ’There was nobody like him, a real showman and the fans loved him.’

And McCormack, an ex-Stretford Ender, has special memories of Millennium

Eve, which he spent in the company of Sir Alex Ferguson.





McCormack on what drives him mad



’People who have false preconceptions about the regional press when they

have no idea. That and Manchester City supporters - oh, and Leeds and

Liverpool.’



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