2004 has to be the most exciting 12 months for press that I've seen in all my years in the advertising industry. While this sounds like good news, it is somewhat damning at the same time. The media market is moving on at a pace, and press is in significant danger of being left behind.
Newspaper circulations are in a definite downward spiral (save a few notable exceptions), and many magazines face a very real threat as supermarkets play an ever-increasing role in distribution, forcing out independents and giving priority to high-volume, high-return titles.
The internet is also playing a greater part in the lives of young adults by providing the kind of information and entertainment that had been gleaned from the glossy pages of their chosen magazines. There is no doubt that last year saw significant developments, but are they too little, too late?
The year started off on a high, with the launch of not one but two weekly men's magazines resulting in the creation of a brand-new market.
The launches of Zoo and Nuts (published by Emap and IPC respectively) took the market by storm, with a combined circulation of nearly 500,000 on their first set of ABC figures. The titles are vying for exactly the same readership with an inspired mix of sex, football, humour and more sex.
Which is where Cut, from the German magazine publisher H Bauer, comes in. Launched in August, it attempted to position itself as something different, covering "just the important stuff", and ended up leaving consumers and media buyers confused as to exactly what role it was trying to play. A relaunch is expected imminently, and it will be no surprise if we are confronted again with sex, football and humour as the magazine's radically new positioning.
The start of the year also saw The Independent go compact throughout the week as the Saturday paper attempted to benefit from the success of the weekday editions. In May, the daily broadsheet editions were ditched, with only the Sunday paper retaining the old format.
The other qualities monitored shifts in circulation with bated breath and, as the figures soared, The Times wasted no time in launching its own compact edition, though with less dramatic success in terms of circulation.
The transformation from broadsheet to tabloid (or compact, as they prefer to be known) is no new phenomenon - it is one that has been implemented by both the Daily Mail and the Daily Express in times past.
To maintain the air of a quality newspaper in the compact format, to keep an element of distinction from the mid-market tabloids and red-tops, is always going to be tough. The Guardian laid its claim to that differentiation by announcing (some two years early) its relaunch in the Berliner format - a kind of halfway house, smaller than a broadsheet, yet big enough to be distinctive, a format that has been extremely successful across Europe.
The capital cost of the required printing presses has been cited as the reason other titles have declined to follow suit, but aren't such investments (over)due?
The battle for ownership of The Daily Telegraph was the media soap opera of the year. One of the most memorable events was the bizarre exchange between Richard Desmond and Jeremy Deedes at a meeting to discuss the future of the Westferry printing works. It is one of those moments that will go down in the annals of advertising history, and make it impossible to watch a certain episode of Fawlty Towers without thinking of the Telegraph sale.
The final bout was won by the Barclay brothers, who at the time of writing have made few changes to the product. They have made some significant appointments, however: Murdoch MacLennan as chief executive, poached from Associated Newspapers, and John Allwood as executive director, joining from Orange. We have also seen the departure of the Telegraph's managing director, Hugo Drayton, and more changes look likely.
There have been numerous other launches and closures of magazines during the course of the year - almost too many to mention. The teenage girls' title J17 and The Face bit the dust in April, followed closely by 19.
In the men's market, Jack folded in July but we did see the birth of Blink, which revolves more around culture than sex, and Test Drive Monthly - a new car magazine that needs little by way of explanation of its positioning.
Easy Living from Conde Nast, due to launch in March 2005, will target a mature female audience and promises to be functional yet fashionable.
Meanwhile, the wait goes on for Northern & Shell's launch of a new London evening paper, while Desmond has hinted he will add other consumer titles to his growing portfolio.
The National Magazine Company has had a busy year, launching Reveal, a new celebrity-focused weekly title which will fight it out head-to-head with Emap's Closer. NatMags has also developed joint ventures with Rodale International (which publishes Men's Health and Runners World in the UK, and has a vast portfolio in the US), and, more recently, with Australian Consolidated Press, an undertaking which paves the way for numerous titles that have experienced success in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia to launch in the UK.
Emap has hit back with the announcement of a new fashion weekly based on the Italian title Grazia - a particularly exciting launch because it is breaking new ground in the women's magazine market.
It has certainly been an interesting year. I, for one, just hope that it will turn out to be the beginning of a trend, rather than an exception to the rule.
- Steve Goodman is the group press director at MediaCom
THE 10 BEST UK PRESS ADS
1. Robinsons "dog", "girl on swing"
In two elegant and attractive executions, colourful swirls of Robinsons fruit squash morph into the figures of a dog, and a girl on a swing. The creative really satisfies the brief by showing that Robinsons transforms a plain glass of water into something bright and interesting.
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers: Rosie Arnold, Matt Kemsley
Art directors: Rosie Arnold, Matt Kemsley
Media agency: MindShare
2. Volkswagen Polo "gorilla"
This witty ad continues the Polo's award-winning "small but tough" theme and proves there's still plenty of mileage in the idea. Spoofing the movie King Kong, the ad emphasises the tough qualities of the car by showing the super-sized simian clutching his foot in agony, presumably having stubbed his toe on a Volkswagen Polo.
Agency: DDB London
Writer: Simon Veksner
Art director: Nick Allsop
Media agency: MediaCom
3. Harvey Nichols "HN on earth"
These captivating collages suck the viewer into the surreal world of Harvey Nichols' "heaven on earth" campaign. Harking back to Hieronymous Bosch's medieval depictions of hell, their weird complexity propels you into a materialist vision of consumer paradise. Just like shopping at Harvey Nics, really.
Agency: DDB London
Writer: Patrick McClelland
Art director: Grant Parker
Photographer: Tim Bret-Day
Media agency: Rocket
4. McDonald's Super Size Me response
When Morgan Spurlock released his anti-McDonald's documentary, Super Size Me, the fast-food giant took the courageous decision to defend itself with a high-profile press campaign. The "more in sadness than in anger" tone of the copy portrays the company as a reasonable but balanced opponent of the film, while the campaign itself generated considerable press coverage for McDonald's at a difficult time.
Agency: Leo Burnett
Writer: Alistair Wood
Art director: Alistair Wood
Media agency: OMD UK
5. British Heart Foundation "artery"
The dissected cigarette as a glooped-up artery drives home the negative effects of smoking in a visceral and, consequently, deeply disturbing way. As a result, the campaign impressed awards judges across the board his year, scooping prizes in poster and direct and effectiveness categories.
Agency: Euro RSCG London
Writer: Sam Richards
Art director: Phil Beaumont
Media agency: Manning Gottlieb OMD
6. Apple iPod
The launch of this year's must-have gadget was accompanied by vibrant and stylish press ads that were nearly as cool as the iPod itself. With their broad blocks of colour echoing the shades of the iPod range, the ads scream trendiness.
Writer: Tom Kraemer
Art director: Susan Alinsangan
Media agency: Manning Gottlieb OMD
7. BabyBel "thin mice"
The posters for new, low-fat BabyBel cheese bring us size-eight rodents. The idea speaks so clearly for itself that no headline or copy is needed - presumably making this an ideal pan-European campaign into the bargain.
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Art Director: Phil Clarke
Writer: Joel Bradley
Media Agency: Manning Gottlieb OMD
8. The Guardian, "I like to read"
Who says long copy is dead? This verbose execution from The Guardian runs to no less than 3,757 words. The ad, which promotes the newspaper's sponsorship of the Hay Literary Festival, conveys the overall message that reading is a good thing, while, for those who already indulge in this particular pleasure, five columns of copy describe the myriad joys of books.
Agency: DDB London
Writers: Ian Forth, Andrew Fraser
Art director: Leslie Ali
Media agency: PHD
9. John West Tuna "wave" Who would have thought that a photograph of a can could convey a message about freshness? This ad for John West, a picture of a rolled-back can lid that looks like a wave, manages to do just that. Using the strapline, "Straight from the sea", the ad brings home the John West message that its products are the next best thing to fresh fish.
Agency: Leo Burnett
Writers: Nick Pringle, Clark Edwards
Art directors: Nick Pringle, Clark Edwards
Photographer: Mark Polyblank
Media agency: Leo Burnett
10. Hornsby International, dyslexia therapist recruitment
This campaign created by M&C Saatchi for the dyslexia charity Hornsby International aims to recruit people to train as dyslexia therapists and makes this call to action in an original and creative way. The ad turns its audience into dyslexia sufferers by the simple expedient of jumbling up the ltteers.
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Paul Hodgkinson
Art directors: Bill Gallacher, Justin Shill
Typographer: Simon Warden
Media agency: M&C Saatchi
THE 10 BEST REGIONAL ADS
1. City Gent Hairdressers "hair crimes"
Dodgy barnets are ten a penny in dodgy hairdressers, so City Gent used that as a positive to show how they could give you a decent haircut. Camp and comic, all at the same time.
Client: City Gent Hairdressers
Writer: Peter Camponi
Art director: Rick Ward
2. Imperial War Museum North "stripes"
Supporting an exhibition of art at the Imperial War Museum North, "stripes" features great art direction, showing Army stripes in all their glory.
Client: Imperial War Museum North
Agency: True North
Creative director: Ady Bibby
Writer: Tony Veasey
3 OHS "trap" Featuring some of the best illustration of the past year, the safety experts OHS used images of traps (such as the Venus Flytrap and an animal trap) to show how its services make users feel safe.
Art director: Propaganda
4. Nissan "X-Trail x-treme state"
Not really an ad, but Tequila's excellent city-centre stunt, featuring a Nissan X-Trail apparently climbing out of the road, certainly created more impact than a more traditional approach.
Client: Nissan GB
Writer: Julian Gratton
Art director: Simon Rowlands
5. Flymo "spaghetti"
This print ad using a plate of spaghetti to communicate the benefits of the cordless Flymo really conveys the frustration of having to wind around the cable when using other mowing machines.
Agency: Robson Brown
Writer: Andrew Dawson
Art director: Gareth Wood
6. Durham Drugs and Alcohol Team
Aimed at drug users in the North-East, to warn them against the infection risks of injecting drugs, this cinema ad shows how a user's body can become consumed by the Hepatitis C virus.
Client: Durham Drugs and Alcohol Action Team
Writers: Chris Rickaby, Sue Storey
Art directors: Mark Martin, Stewart Allen, Carlo Reale
7. Beverage Brands (WKD) "WKD side"
Part of a national campaign, this print ad ran in the Midlands to support WKD's Vodka Iron Brew product. The crude wit of the TV campaign translates well into an ad that uses double entendres.
Client: Beverage Brands
Agency: Big Communications
Writer: Craig Buzzel
Art directors: Richard Davis, Simon Davis
8. Hooker Ale "usual bitter"
This campaign playing on the Hooker name was cleverly written, looked good and got the brand talked about.
Client: Hooker Ale
Agency: Rees Bradley Hepburn
Writer: Nigel Thomas
Art director: Paul Brookes
9. The Chiropractic Centre "ceilings"
Winner of the best press campaign in the regional Fresh Awards, this ad uses an image of a ceiling to convince you that treatment is the best thing for back problems. The line "Get back on your feet" completes an effective piece of work.
Client: The Chiropractic Centre
Writer: Mick McCabe
Art director: Simon Storey
10. Durham City Arts "Durham Brass Festival"
This campaign aimed to make people reassess their perceptions of brass music, using some striking images of animals with brass instruments for heads.
Client: Durham City Arts
Agency: Sumo Design
Art director: Jim Richardson
Illustrator: Max Kisman
THE 10 BEST SCOOPS
1. Beckham's secret affair, News of the World
It just has to be, doesn't it? We can all surely recall exactly where we were and what we were doing at the precise moment we heard. That epic day. The day when things changed utterly. Sunday 5 April. The News of the World. The bombshell that David, Our Dear Sweet Lord David Beckham, had been slipping a length to Rebecca Loos.
2. Roo in a vice den, Sunday Mirror
And then there was the other one about the footballer who had sex. Not just any footballer, though, Not just any sex. Yes, let us take you back to 22 August and the Sunday Mirror. Wayne Rooney visits brothel shock. The story reveals that he paid £45 a go for sex with prostitutes, including a mother of six who dressed for the occasion as a cowgirl and a 48-year-old grandmother who chose to wear a rubber cat suit during the act of congress. Rrrr.
3. Sven's secret affair, News of the World
A pattern is starting to emerge here. Football. Sex. Sex and football. Football and ... the News of the World, 18 July. England manager shags Football Association employee.
4. Hutton Report leaked, The Sun
Speculation had been mounting for months over the content of Lord Hutton's findings into the Andrew Gilligan affair. The Sun's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, got his hands on a leaked copy days ahead of publication and revealed to the world that the BBC was a very bad thing indeed and that the Labour Government - surprise, surprise - emerged smelling of roses.
5. Leslie Ash and Lee Chapman, Tonight with Trevor McDonald, ITV
On 27 September, ITV came up with a scoop that involved a footballer and an actress but (and this is the clever bit) no sex. The story as it unfolded in an exclusive interview given by Leslie Ash and Lee Chapman on Tonight With Trevor McDonald was that they (Lee and Leslie) were not having violence with each other. Oh no. Which they told Trevor in very sincere voices in exchange for £100,000. Ahhh. Bless.
6. Blunkett's affair with a married woman, News of the World
And now - sex and politics. Want some of that? No? Tough. News of the World, 15 August. Blind cabinet minister with food in his beard and an unhygienic guide dog meets smart American on the make in London and ... carumba. It's all too beautiful.
7. Den's net sex shame, The People
It's been a poor year for soap operas, which just aren't the tabloid scandal factories they once were. In fact, the best we can come up with is the one in The People of 2 May about Dirty Den, alias Leslie Grantham, exposing himself via a webcam during an internet sex session.
8. Sun 'bomber' in Commons, The Sun
So, in the absence of real news, even of a soap-opera variety, Britain's finest have resorted to the time-honoured wheeze of creating their own. And in these paranoid times, what better than a security scare? The Sun's story of 16 September revealed that it had smuggled bomb-making equipment into the Houses of Parliament. Admirable, really.
9. Freed sex monster wins £7m Lottery, Daily Express
On 11 August, the Daily Express revealed that Iorworth Hoare, a rapist still serving out his sentence at Leyhill Open Prison, had won £7 million on the National Lottery.
10. Daily Mail slow news days
The mid-market papers weren't totally hopeless during 2004. The Daily Mail had a particularly productive year on the news front. One day it was able to reveal that it still numbered the British prime minister, Tony Blair, among those people that it doesn't really care for much. On another, it was able to remind its readers that the thing about foreign countries is that they tend to be full of foreigners. And we don't like foreigners, now do we?
THE 10 BEST MAGAZINE COVERS
1. Arena - November 2004
Coinciding with the remake of the film Alfie, Arena's November issue featured the movie's star, Jude Law, photographed by David Bailey using the same pose and same camera he used to snap Michael Caine, the original film's lead.
2. GQ - July 2004
Perfectly timed to coincide with the start of the Euro 2004 football tournament in Portugal, GQ's July issue featured a striking shot of Thierry Henry on a minimalist background free of any extraneous coverlines.
3. Vogue - September 2004
The tiny frame of Kate Moss slices this cover in half. The photograph, by Nick Knight, sets her in the centre of a vivid blue halo effect. The shot gives the magazine its typical, stylish stand-out.
4. Empire - August 2004
In celebration of one of the year's biggest movies - Spider-Man 2 - Empire created a collector's edition cover, featuring an amazing 3D image of the arachnid superhero jumping out from a backdrop of New York.
5. Harpers & Queen - March 2004
Beyonce Knowles languishes across Harpers' March issue, shot as if she had been thrown across the gold, satin backdrop. Her arm slung casually through the masthead is a nice touch.
6. Homme Arena + - autumn/winter 2004
Following the Bolton teenager's unparalleled triumph in this year's Olympic Games, a darkened shot of the lightweight Amir Khan in the classic boxing pose dominated the cover of Homme Arena +'s autumn/winter issue.
7. Pop - spring/summer 2004
This grainy duo-toned close-up of this year's most talked-about footballer's wife, Victoria Beckham was shot by the same team - Mert Atlas and Marcus Piggott - that took the photograph of Amir Khan for Homme Arena +.
8. Radio Times - 17-23 July 2004
Celebrating Channel 4's great soap survey, this issue of the Radio Times boasted four different covers. They showcased the soap characters Angie Watts, Bet Lynch, Hilda Ogden and Alfie Moon in a colourful, Warhol-esque style.
9. Vanity Fair - February 2004
A coup for Vanity Fair - its February cover captured a reclining Gwyneth Paltrow in the week the actress announced both her pregnancy and her marriage to Coldplay's lead singer, Chris Martin.
10. World of Interiors - December 2004
The sharp photography on this cover - illustrating a story about architects building in ice - depicts one of the featured buildings, a snowball cottage, in a classic blue-and-white colour scheme.
THE 10 MOST TALKED-ABOUT EDITORS
1. Boris Johnson, The Spectator
Even when not insulting entire cities, Boris is never far from notoriety. He clearly has a real hoot with his chums on The Spectator and acts the ingenu wonderfully well when it all blows up. Especially when an alleged affair and a story in the tabloids led to his removal from the shadow cabinet. He's not quite as befuddled as he looks, obviously - but, on the other hand, he ain't Swift neither.
2. Piers Morgan, ex-editor, The Mirror
The end of the Piers Show was fascinating and (for those who believe the tales about the spiteful tactics he used against those he disliked) ultimately heart-warming. Although sacked (pay-off £1.7 million) back in May for his part in the Iraqi-prisoner-abuse-faked-pictures scandal, Morgan is arguably our most talked-about editor as he seeks a new job while promising to tell all in a forthcoming book (£1.2 million advance).
3. Rebekah Wade, The Sun
Wade, a female version of your traditional fire-breathing, aggressive Fleet Street editor, is always but a heartbeat away from controversy. Having spent the summer setting tongues wagging with her attempts to shake her staff out of their complacency, she hit the headlines in October thanks to her decision, as part of a dispute with the game's governing bodies, to remove all mention of sponsors from the paper's coverage of football.
4. Simon Kelner, The Independent
Kelner was arguably the only editor to get talked about for all the right reasons during 2004 , as he continued to preside over the soaraway circulation success of his paper since it reinvented itself in dinky dimensions.
5. Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief, Associated Newspapers
Dacre's contemptuously arrogant performance in front of a Parliamentary select committee back in March will have surprised no-one who's ever even glanced at a copy of the Daily Mail. Brought in to discuss whether some elements of the press were arrogant or contemptuous, Dacre clearly felt he was best served by showing rather than telling.
6. Richard Sambrook, head of BBC news
It was astonishing in some ways that Sambrook, who was shredded under cross-examination during the Hutton Inquiry before doing the dirty on his hapless reporter, Andrew Gilligan, should have survived so long. But cometh a new director-general (Mark Thompson), cometh the comeuppance - and, in July, Sambrook was "promoted" to head of World Service.
7. Jane Johnson, Closer
The Periodical Publishers Association editor of the year (no relation, that we know of, to Boris) has turned one of Emap's biggest launches of recent times into what it is now hailing as its most successful launch ever, with a circulation of around 480,000. Johnson was also one of many touted for the Daily Mirror editorship following the departure of Morgan.
8. Martin Newland, The Daily Telegraph
Newland's challenging year at the Telegraph has made him the subject of many columns and articles, many of them suggesting he wouldn't survive the newspaper's change in ownership. So far, time has proved them all wrong.
9. Andrew Gowers, Financial Times
Just a few weeks back, people were talking about Gowers going down in history as the last ever editor of the Financial Times, as the title faced a £230 million libel claim that, if successful, would have sunk the paper. Luckily for Gowers, the claim was struck out by the High Court.
10. Greg Gutfeld, Maxim
This wise-cracking, streetwise Manhattanite was expected to bring a blast of irreverent Loaded-style anarchy back to the men's magazine market when he was catapulted across the Atlantic this summer into his new job. Strangely, though, since then it's all gone a bit quiet. As our dear friend Oscar (and we're not talking about the butch half of the Odd Couple) once pointed out, there is only one thing worse than being talked about ...