There was almost universal praise last week for the way that the
Amra acquisition by Trinity was presented to media agencies. One buyer
even said this was the most blatant example of industry honesty he could
remember. Amra, should you have missed it, chose the occasion to concede
that it hasn’t been doing the most brilliant job in the world
This, admittedly, was part of a ’things can only get better’ public
relations strategy. But compared with the mind-numbing banality of your
standard ’the world may have been wonderful before but now it’s going to
be orgasmically wonderful’ spin, it was refreshing.
Perhaps, though, this was cunning psychology - the ultimate double
Amra’s new parent company, Trinity, is the country’s largest publisher
of regional newspapers - with 120 titles. Amra (the name will be
retained under its new owners) will add the Trinity titles to its
existing portfolio of 75, thus leapfrogging Mediaforce to become the
UK’s largest regional press sales house.
Amra now represents just less than a quarter of the market by
Surely that market clout is a worry to buyers and clients?
Not really. Neil Hepburn, the director of regional media at BMP Optimum,
says: ’There was a lot of nonsense written about this last week. This is
not about controlling the market. Size is a peripheral issue. Amra is
the biggest regional press sales house. So what?
’The point is that regional money can go into other media and we all
know that. The point is about selling the medium and its real strengths
- that is not something that’s always been a priority.’
The idea is that Amra will not only keep its current highly respected
team under the chief executive, Mike McCormack, but now guarantee
resources and a commitment to marketing the medium.
Jo Stead, the managing director of New PHD’s regional press specialist,
Space Station, agrees - a further concentration of power will not create
anything more than a marginal shift in market dynamics.
’The industry has become panicky about previous mergers but in the end
it has not caused much trouble. We’ve got used to the idea,’ she
But there are other potential flies in the ointment. Malcolm Denmark,
the chief executive of Mediaforce, reportedly asserted last week that
Amra would find it hard to act as both Trinity’s sales department and an
independent sales point for other publishers. Or, put the other way
around: other publishers might question where Amra’s loyalties lie.
Denmark is obviously unhappy that he is about to lose a number of
Trinity titles currently represented by his company. But many observers
believe he has a fair point.
Stead is of the view that the dust hasn’t begun to settle yet. She
comments: ’It’s never nice to see companies like Mediaforce losing
business when they’ve been doing such a good job on it, but Amra may
have to lose some business and Mediaforce might pick it up.
’On the other hand, Amra certainly has the personnel and resources to
make it work. If Trinity doesn’t take its eye off the ball, then this
move may well be of value to agencies and their clients.’
If there are few monopoly worries in the creation of this bigger Amra
entity, there are also few logistical advantages. It won’t mean, for
instance, that it will take fewer phone calls to place the business.
Regional press, as ever, will remain a complex matrix. No one-stop shop
But there is widespread consensus that Amra integrity plus new resource
equals good news. Hepburn states: ’Of course, there are always potential
causes for concern, but you have to say the no bullshit way in which it
has admitted its previous mistakes speaks volumes about the company.’