Peter's been robbed and Paul's about to get a juicy new marketing
budget down at Express Newspapers, as 145 journalists' jobs are expected
to be slashed to stockpile a promotional armoury of around pounds 25
million for the group's three newspapers.
This could, of course, mean more of the worst TV ads ever made for the
purposes of newspaper promotion (and, yes, I haven't forgotten St Luke's
ads for the Daily Express): more gut-wrenching turns from Lawrence
Llewelyn-Bowen and Jeremy Beadle.
But there are deeper issues at stake here than the further pollution of
our TV viewing environment. It seems that the Daily Express wants to
pump its group marketing muscle in line with that of the Daily Mail.
On the plus side, this marketing bonanza could come as something of a
relief to readers of both the Mail and the Express if it means that the
battle between the two opponents is now moving from the editorial pages
of the papers and into the advertising arena. Whether it's the Express
claiming the Mail has a Nazi-sympathiser past or the Mail revelling in
what it sees as the Express' new pornographic parentage, the two foes
have been duffing each other up editorially in a demeaning tit-for-tat
farce. A bit of honest advertising would be a welcome reprieve.
On the downside, a significant tranche of the Express' editorial numbers
are being culled over the next three months. It's an interesting
equation: increase marketing spend so that you draw in new readers
willing to sample the papers but at the same time cut editorial
resources so that the papers themselves have less firepower than they
did before new readers were dipping in. It hardly sounds like a strategy
to build long-term reader loyalty.
But wait, perhaps the Express has once again been more canny than
observers have given it credit for. Because at the same time that it has
increased its marketing budget, the group has also decentralised its
CIA used to hold the entire account, but now the newly engorged budget
is being split three ways, with CIA sharing the spoils with OMD and
Media decentralisation, of course, flies in the face not only of market
trends but of perceived wisdom. Crudely put, the more advertising budget
you can pour into the same negotiating pot, the more welly you've got
when it comes to striking a solid deal with the media owners.
The beauty of being a media owner yourself, though, is that your media
agency suppliers are also your customers. At such a crucial time for the
Express, backs are no doubt getting itchy; now there are three media
agencies lined up for a bit of scratching. Call me cynical, but is there
any chance that the Express might now receive slightly more advertising
revenue from the clients of three media agencies, instead of just the