MEDIA HEADLINER: Newcombe gets brief to boost Associated's contract offering - Jackie Newcombe is sure that looking inward will lift USP Anna Griffiths explains.

The recent appointment of Jackie Newcombe as the managing director of Associated Newspapers' contract publishing division, Unique Solutions in Publishing, has been generally hailed as a real catch for the newspaper group.

The recent appointment of Jackie Newcombe as the managing director of Associated Newspapers' contract publishing division, Unique Solutions in Publishing, has been generally hailed as a real catch for the newspaper group.

Lured into Associated by The Mail on Sunday's managing director, Mike Ironside, Newcombe joins from the contract publishing company Premier, where she headed the customer magazine group Premier Media Partners. She slips into the gap left by Simon Barnes, who quit USP abruptly in May.

She may have just one year of contract publishing experience under her belt, but she has clocked up 18 years in the publishing industry. She has held senior positions across IPC Media, including publishing director of IPC women's weeklies and publishing director of IPC's home interest group.

There's no doubt that Newcombe faces a challenge. It would seem, on the face of it, that Associated has much to offer in terms of utilising its various resources for contract publishing.

The reality, though, has been disappointing, with the company picking up a London Symphony Orchestra publication in its first year and an Avon magazine earlier this summer.

Perhaps Barnes and Mike Anderson, his managing partner, did not have the support they had hoped for when they started the company last year.

Advertorial is often spurned by editorial departments and, given the golden halo that surrounds the editorial offices of Associated, it isn't difficult to imagine some of the resistance that may have been encountered.

Significantly, however, Newcombe will report to Ironside, and having The Mail on Sunday on her side can't be a bad thing.

She says: 'If Associated are committed, then they have the wherewithal. The impression I had as an outsider looking in was to see all the contacts and advertisers that they have. I am not underestimating the potential difficulties, but I need to get others to see the benefits.'

Ironside echoes Newcombe's feelings regarding USP's potential new impetus.

He says: 'What Simon did was to look outward from the company and I don't believe he used the internal strengths.

'Jackie will seize on the strengths of the company. It's just a change in direction. Of course we will look out and be competitive with other contract publishers but we have an enormous network of contacts and databases that we can use. We want to weave Jackie into the strategy of Associated Newspapers.'

When Newcombe joins next month, she will have to relaunch the company and build its profile, which, until now, has been almost non-existent.

The recent office move to an Associated building in Covent Garden should help the company carve its own identity and Newcombe hopes that, in time, the empire she builds will merit a building in its own right.

Although unwilling to divulge all of her plans, she does say: 'I will definitely be adding a capability to offer online services to clients.'

From Newcombe's CV, it is evident that launches and relaunches are a major feature of her career. Her first steps in the magazine world - back in 1988 - saw her as a graduate trainee at IPC magazines. She then helped launch Options and worked on the launches of Country Homes and Interiors, the ill-fated women's magazine Riva, Now, Living Etc and 25 Beautiful Homes.

It is difficult to unearth any critics of Newcombe, who seems to have a wide base of loyal friends and fans. Ironside, who first met her during his time at TBWA, when she was selling advertising space to him for Options, is convinced that she will make USP work. He says: 'She's a level-headed, confident person who has a sense of humour and will pull it off.'

Justine Southall, the group advertising director for BBC Worldwide's Lifestyle UK group, who worked with Newcombe at IPC, says: 'She's very bright, has a really clear head and quickly finds a route through stuff. She has not got a huge ego, but she's not so lovely that she's dull.'

Let's hope Newcombe is good at politics too.


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