Media: Headliner - David Davies insists Grazia is worth the money

The managing director of the six-month-old title says he is winning the battle to convince advertisers.

The red carpet is the new catwalk," the designer Giorgio Armani is apparently fond of saying. This is the kind of attitude that underpinned the launch of Emap's Grazia six months ago.

The magazine, which claims not to be a celebrity title but features famous people wearing expensive clothes, has just posted its first official circulation figure. Its 155,157 sale has just beaten Emap's 150,000 target so, understandably, its managing director, David Davies, is feeling fairly content.

It hasn't all been plain sailing for Davies, who moved into the Grazia role a year ago, five months before the launch. The former Mixmag and FHM editor, who also ran Emap's Elan division as its managing director, has had to win advertisers round after early complaints that the title wasn't delivering on its premium positioning.

However, Davies argues: "Some people thought we'd be launching a weekly version of Vogue, others had the idea that it would be a celebrity glossy, but we were very clear on the market we wanted."

Davies says the title is pulling in an audience of "moneyed thirtysomething women" and that it has never been a battle to convince readers of Grazia's worth. The struggle has been in winning over advertisers, many of whom buy media through male-dominated media departments.

Grazia's UK birth was the brainchild of Fiona McIntosh, its editor-in-chief, who loved the Italian version and pitched the idea of approaching its publisher, Mondadori, to license a UK edition. The then editor of Eve, Jane Bruton, was brought in as the editor. Bruton has been vocal in recent weeks, saying the magazine will never feature Big Brother contestants. That said, a recent cover featuring Kylie Minogue alongside a line about her wedding plans indicates that the title isn't attempting to provide the pure fashion experience of the Italian publication.

Davies explains: "We loved the brand and had to do something after the break-up with Hachette Filipacchi. To launch credibly in the fashion market, you really need an inter-national brand. When we had Red, we found it was hard to get traction with international fashion and beauty advertisers, who generally prefer to work with international magazine brands."

Davies is a bright and thoughtful man who doesn't seem to fit the stereotype of the laddish men's mag editor. He has moved roles within Emap frequently because, he says: "Brands need a new injection, and I like doing new things and throwing everything at it."

The editorial brief for Grazia's team is to combine fashion content with compelling emotional stories and A-list celebrities wearing the clothes of top fashion designers. Davies argues that it's now well into its stride: "Grazia is motoring because it's found its soul - there are some fantastic emotional stories that give the magazine something extra. It's got the gloss and that's excellent, but it was always about adding soul and depth."

But do agencies feel it is delivering? Caroline Jones, a group head at Starcom Mediavest, says: "Grazia has reached its circulation target and it has heavy newsstand sales. It is also getting great reader feedback and it's one of the few magazines I put in my handbag and take home to read. The first few issues were heavily celebrity, but now I think it is delivering something different."

Mark Gallagher, the press director at Manning Gottlieb OMD, says: "Grazia needed to change the way it looked because every cover looked the same. That's a lot better now. It offers something different. Everything about it says 'quality' but, as always, you come down to the serious conversations about how much that quality is worth."

Another buyer is much more blunt about the problems he feels Grazia faces with advertisers. "It's a total fucking rip-off," he says, arguing that, in terms of cost per thousand, it's prohibitively expensive compared with other weeklies.

The more general view is that Grazia got it wrong at first with an over-aggressive pricing policy but is behaving more realistically now. There was also some lingering resentment towards Emap for apparently distributing a dummy copy of the magazine around agencies that differed significantly from the first edition to hit the newsstands.

However, Davies says Grazia is now trading with 90 per cent of the London agencies and has taken more than £2 million in ad revenue. Agencies also like the confidence Emap demonstrated by raising the title's cover price by 20p to £1.70.

The task now for Grazia, Davies says, is to grow circulation without damaging the product: "Obviously, we're looking to grow it, and I think we'll reach the quarter-of-a-million mark. But we're not looking to change the magazine; we're happy with it, so we won't change to drive circulation and buy readers."

At the moment, Grazia has a niche to itself. But will that change? "On the one hand, it would be great to have competition to help grow the market but, on the other, we have a monopoly," Davies says.

"At retail it's the most successful Emap launch ever and, because of the high cover price, it's taking more than Pick Me Up in retail sales value. It will be hard for a new entrant to come in, but if the monthly market starts to erode, I think you'll have monthlies that become weeklies."

- ABC report, page 28

THE LOWDOWN Age: 38 Lives: Islington, London Family: Married with three daughters Favourite ad: Opium with Sophie Dahl Describe yourself in three words: Just very lucky Greatest extravagance: Don't know Interests outside of work: Playing competitive sport Living person you most admire: Tony Prince (DJ and Mixmag founder) Alternative career: Can't imagine Last book read: My Trade by Andrew Marr