INTERNATIONAL MEDIA BUSINESS: The borderless world

Rob Gray talks to the advertising and marketing directors of some of the world's biggest international media brands and asks them how they construct and maintain a consistent image and offering throughout the world.

DISCOVERY - Monica Mather, regional director of international advertising

How many different versions of Discovery are there?

A dozen: the US as well as seven programming feeds across Europe, Latin America, Asia, China and India.

How do you make your brand consistent across the globe?

We have a backbone of programming. Around 70 per cent of it is consistent around the world, but we balance that with locally commissioned work and "reversioning" material for local tastes; in some markets we dub, in others we use subtitles.

Where do you see growth at the moment?

We're a pay-TV channel, not free-to-air, so there are still some markets where we can get wider distribution. But, for example, we're in 82 million homes in Asia already.

When do you think ad revenue will start picking up?

2004.

Who are your main advertisers?

Shell, Airbus, Peugeot, Nokia and Johnnie Walker.

How have you branched out to offer advertisers other products?

We did some one-minute programme vignettes with Johnnie Walker. There's a lot of interest among clients at the moment in doing things that are more than just advertising.

What advice would you give to a media brand wanting to become more global?

You've got to have a consistent brand and a recognisable logo. Discovery is one of the most recognised media brands in the world.

Which international business media do you admire?

I admire AOL Time Warner's ability to package on a large scale, but I don't necessarily admire all the media they are offering.

BBC WORLD - Colin Lawrence, strategy and sales operations director

How many different versions of BBC World are there?

We're essentially one global channel, but we adapt some of the content regionally. For example, we have regionally produced programmes such as Asia Business Report and India Business Report.

How do you make your brand consistent across the globe?

The name of our channel is the same across the world - we don't add labels to it, but we do change some of the programme stranding. The long history of the BBC brand is helpful.

Where do you see growth at the moment?

In Europe our weekly audience has gone up by 70 per cent. There's a societal trend, stories such as the invasion of Afghanistan, Enron and WorldCom have repercussions everywhere.

When do you think ad revenue will start picking up?

I'd like to say next year, but there are some major outside factors that could compromise that.

Who are your main advertisers?

HSBC, Shell, Chevron, Allianz, Ace Insurance, Fujitsu, Siemens and Computer Associates.

How have you branched out to offer advertisers other products?

In sponsorship. Maldives Tourism sponsors the weather forecast globally and Credit Suisse sponsors the Market Boards (on-screen financial market graphics).

What advice would you give to a media brand wanting to become more global?

The flip answer is "don't try", there are already too many people trying to do it. But you've got to be relevant.

Which international business media do you admire?

I'd have to give a lot of credit to Dow Jones for The Wall Street Journal, especially in Asia. More recently, the Financial Times has successfully established itself in Germany and the US.

TIME/FORTUNE - Andrew Butcher, president of Time/Fortune International

How many different versions of the magazines are there?

Six of Time - the US edition, Canada, Latin America, South Pacific, Europe and Asia. Three of Fortune - the US "mothership", Asia and Europe.

How do you make your brands consistent across the globe?

Fortune is edited from New York and about 80 per cent of the magazine is the same across markets, with around 20 per cent being local content.

With Time, each edition has its own editor. But the editors talk among themselves on a regular basis and share some stories. The look and feel of the magazine, including the red border on the cover, is the same everywhere.

Where do you see growth at the moment?

I think corporate advertising has a lot of potential. There are a lot of companies out there worried about damage to their reputations as they come increasingly under scrutiny.

When do you think ad revenue will start picking up?

I wish I had a crystal ball.

Who are your main advertisers?

WorldCom was our fourth-biggest advertiser! But we are strong in luxury goods with Patek Philippe, Rolex and Omega, and financial with the likes of HSBC and UBS.

How have you branched out to offer advertisers other products?

We have the standalone Time Traveler, a special edition in Asia and Time for Fashion in Europe, which comes polybagged with the weekly magazine in Europe.

What advice would you give to a media brand wanting to become more global?

Find out what readers want and which markets advertisers want. Never skimp on investment in the editorial product.

Which international business media do you admire?

Everybody that is big is doing a pretty good job.

FORBES - Steven Rau, advertisement director EMEA

How many different versions of Forbes are there?

There's the US version and then there's Forbes Global, which has about 50 per cent original content. We sometimes make slight changes to the content for EMEA and Asia, for instance sometimes using different covers.

How do you make your brand consistent across the globe?

We were once described as "the drama critic of business". Forbes always brings a certain attitude to the table.

Where do you see growth at the moment?

We don't want to be bigger than The Economist on an ex-US basis, but we want to keep delivering the high-end readers.

When do you think ad revenue will start picking up?

The second quarter of next year.

Who are your main advertisers?

Allianz, Commerzbank, Daimler Chrysler, HSBC, IBM, Lexus, Rolex, Swiss Re and the top luxury hotel groups.

How have you branched out to offer advertisers other products?

In the US, we have the quarterly lifestyle magazine FYI, the quarterly technology title ASAP and the TV programme Forbes on Fox. There's Forbes.com as well.

What advice would you give to a media brand wanting to become more global?

They need to establish a separate editorial department for the world outside the US.

Which international business media do you admire?

The Economist is very good. I like the fact that it takes a view. Asian Wall Street Journal has done a great job as being the paper of record in that part of the world.

FINANCIAL TIMES - David Walsh, worldwide advertisement director

How many different versions of the Financial Times are there?

The UK, the US, Europe and Asia. There is also the German language joint venture with Gruner + Jahr, FT Deutschland.

How do you make your brand consistent across the globe?

We give the readers what they expect from the Financial Times: integrity, incisiveness, a global perspective and accuracy.

Where do you see growth at the moment?

There seems to be an insatiable demand for quality information so far as business, politics and international news is concerned.

When do you think ad revenue will start picking up?

It's far too soon yet to talk about wholesale recovery.

Who are your main advertisers?

Vodafone, Oracle and DaimlerChrysler are among those that take advantage of our pan-regional offer.

How have you branched out to offer advertisers other products?

There's ft.com, of course, and How to Spend It, which is published 17 times a year in the UK/Europe and four times a year worldwide. There's also our weekly FTfm supplement about fund management, which is published across all regions except the US. We also do fashion and interiors specials.

What advice would you give to a media brand wanting to become more global?

You've got to be certain about why you want to be global in the first place. You need a deep understanding of who you will be serving and to be mindful of the cultural differences that are present once you move beyond your homeland.

Which international business media do you admire?

British Airways' High Life, a good read in a niche sector.

NEWSWEEK - Greg Osberg, executive vice-president and worldwide publisher

How many different versions of Newsweek are there?

We have four English language versions: the US, Atlantic (EMEA), Asia and Latin America.

How do you make your brand consistent across the globe?

All of our international editions have a global feel - the international editions share around 90 to 95 per cent of their content, but carry only around 25 per cent of the content of the US version.

Where do you see growth at the moment?

We have a strategy to grow the business audience.

When do you think ad revenue will start picking up?

I think we'll see some slight momentum in quarter four this year and I hope to see a real recovery start early next year.

Who are your main advertisers?

I never go on record as to who our main advertisers are.

How have you branched out to offer advertisers other products?

We have formed strategic alliances with media companies so that we have broadcast partners. We can combine online forums with sponsored editorial in the publication as we have done with Microsoft in the US with its sponsorship of Companies of the Future.

What advice would you give to a media brand wanting to become more global?

Don't think about it unless you have good resources. It's an expensive proposition.

Which international business media do you admire?

I admire the ones that are improving: The International Herald Tribune, the FT and BBC World have all done a good job.