MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Magazine owners are foolish to use RAB as a template

Not for the first time, the success of the Radio Advertising Bureau is leading to rumours that other media owners might follow suit. Last week the RAB said radio revenue grew by 22 per cent, so they’re probably even greener now.

Not for the first time, the success of the Radio Advertising Bureau is

leading to rumours that other media owners might follow suit. Last week

the RAB said radio revenue grew by 22 per cent, so they’re probably even

greener now.



But who is it? Various senior players in the poster industry have told

me it isn’t them and nor, I am reliably informed, is it the Association

of Golf Hole Space Salesmen although, God knows, they could probably do

with a generic sales push. Nor is it the newspaper boys who have sort of

been down this route once before with a famously offensive attack on

using TV in 1991 and 1992. Not surprisingly this didn’t go down very

well with top marketing directors who don’t enjoy being made to feel

like monkeys, a problem that was compounded when the tabloids started

spending millions on TV themselves.



No, this time around it’s the magazine publishers. Well, should they? It

does, after all, sound like a great idea. You can see how easily

everybody gets seduced by it. ‘Yeah,’ they say in a feeling of warm

brotherly love and comradeship induced by a top-level awayday in the

Home Counties. ‘Let’s all put aside our differences, get together and

bash the living daylights out of the other media. Then we can just watch

the money roll in.’



Of course, it’s not really that simple, but it’s not a bad idea,

particularly as newspapers are becoming more like magazines and TV goes

into niche and special-interest stations.



But my advice is that they shouldn’t. For one thing, magazines compete

with each other, unlike the radio stations which are, for the most part,

discrete regional monopolies.



More important, whatever they say, I don’t think the magazine houses are

capable of coming up with what it takes: a high-profile individual with

a high salary (say pounds 150,000) and a lot of attitude (ie, you can’t

push them around); a big budget (say pounds 5 to pounds 6 million);

total impartiality; and a five-year game plan. I say that because I’m

not convinced the magazine publishers appreciate the difference between

a generic marketing operation, which is what the RAB is, and a generic

selling operation, which is not what is needed but most likely what

they’ll end up with.



So what should they do? For starters, don’t bash the opposition media -

it makes people defensive. Better that they campaign for themselves, for

example by putting special client teams to sell all the other things

magazines can offer: shows, databases, sponsorships, promotions. But I

wonder how many sales teams think beyond the page? Another is to offer

sales teams big incentives to woo advertisers who use other media.



They could, of course, also advertise - using magazines exactly as their

clients do - to target people in their own language. But that would

require producing some decent ads and, as we know, media owners are

useless at doing that.