Supplement - FHM and Vauxhall take fast route to success

One of the UK's leading lads' mags and a major car manufacturer joined forces to challenge all those budding Schumachers out there.

Think you're a good driver? Almost every guy does. So, at FHM we challenged our millions of monthly consumers to put their money where their mouths are.

The FHM VXR Sports Driver of the year is one of the most successful collaborations in FHM's history. The facts speak for themselves: record entries and good ROI. It worked smoothly and effectively for FHM, Vauxhall, the guys who took part and the lucky bloke who won both a new car and a professional test-drive.

How did we get there? We knew from Initiative that Vauxhall's objective was to re-define its image and engage with 18 to 34-year-old men, competing effectively with its rivals for share of mind among this audience. Vauxhall was launching a sub-brand called VXR - the sportier and edgier range to its existing product line. This effectively builds on the car-maker's sports-racing heritage and offers consumers an affordable-but-racier alternative in the market. What the company needed was a compelling, persuasive way of convincing its target to consider it.

Our idea of launching the search for the next Michael Schumacher in FHM was a fitting way of meeting the client's needs. We knew it could be a success as we polled young guys nationwide who overwhelmingly told us they liked the idea. Fortunately, so did both Vauxhall and Initiative - and the partnership was signed.

Over five million 18 to 34-year-old consumers access our brand values of 'funny, sexy and useful' across FHM's five platforms every month. As such, FHM is able to provide broadcast scale cost effectively with minimal wastage. We're also leading the market by offering opportunities to appropriate advertisers to create advertiser-funded content through creatively led solutions.

We call this our killer quartet:

- The project offers the best results for the client.

- It enhances our editorial proposition.

- It gives the reader unique opportunities to experience FHM and the client's brand.

- It is financially beneficial to all.

To retain our integrity, it has to fulfil all of the above criteria. Over eight months, we produced 30 pages of recruit-and-reveal advetorial pieces that sat seamlessly in the magazine. The depth of the partnership was illustrated through allowing the copy to refer to FHM, as well as design cues/colours and the creation of a joint logo.

Meanwhile, featured everything from the registration processes and interactive profiles on the girls, through to downloadable screensavers and videos from the heats through to the finals.

So how do we know it was a success?

The response from readers and users to take part was phenomenal. But did it shift perceptions among Vauxhall's target audience?

Extensive pre and post-research among 18 to 34-year-olds showed that awareness and perception of the VXR brand improved substantially among FHM readers. The best figure of all, however, is that one in three of FHM's millions of consumers said they would now consider buying a Vauxhall as their next new car.


The future

These deals push the boundaries and provide a model of how they can, and perhaps should, be shaped in the future. Vauxhall shares this position in FHM with brands such as 02 and Xbox, where FHM has constructed similar relationships.

The key seems to be sharing understanding of what consumers want, then adding value. This is achieved through strong editorial-led content solutions that can not only be communicated credibly and with integrity, but can exist as sub-brands in their own right. They provide another dimension for clients and agencies wanting to target men.

The FHM/Vauxhall partnership won the Gold Award in the Sales Pitch Medium category at the Media Week Awards 2005.

James Mallinson, brand director, FHM.