MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Express switches from an editorial to an advertising war

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

media business.

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



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