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
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.