MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON: MAGAZINES - Magazine industry’s boycott threat angers media buyers. The PPA has shot itself in the foot with its stance on payment. By Alasdair Reid

The magazine industry’s trade body, the Periodical Publishers Association, has chosen a strange time to anger media buyers. And they are very, very angry. This, surely, is the last thing the PPA needs as it attempts to draw on agency support to preserve its presence on the UK’s main print trading currency, the National Readership Survey.

The magazine industry’s trade body, the Periodical Publishers

Association, has chosen a strange time to anger media buyers. And they

are very, very angry. This, surely, is the last thing the PPA needs as

it attempts to draw on agency support to preserve its presence on the

UK’s main print trading currency, the National Readership Survey.



Duncan Edwards, the deputy managing director of the National Magazine

Company, has spent the last couple of weeks trying to drum up support

for the PPA campaign and many buying points had already indicated their

broad support. After last week’s fiasco he’s back to square one. If he’s

lucky.



The PPA’s public relations own goal was a letter to major agencies

accusing them of persistent late payment of invoices and threatening to

expose them as dodgy customers or, even worse, to boycott them

altogether. This might have been seen as a brave if foolhardy move if

the PPA had got its facts right. Agencies say they’ve got it wrong. Very

wrong indeed.



By a convention originally agreed between agencies and newspapers in the

60s, publications are paid 30 days after the end of the month of the

cover date of the title within which the ad runs. Magazine publishers

traditionally work within that convention too. An ad in the April issue

of a monthly magazine would be paid for on or before 30 May.



Calculated and deliberate late payment is condemned throughout the

industry.



But that’s not what the PPA letter is really about - it’s about cover

date versus publication date. The trouble is that magazines come out

earlier and earlier. The April issue of a monthly magazine may actually

come out in the first couple of weeks of March - and publishers now want

to be paid 30 days after the end of month in which the magazine is

published.



They’ve argued their case on and off for a couple of years - and

individual publishers have conducted petulant and fractious disputes

with individual agencies on a sporadic basis - but they’ve never really

known how to go about asking for it in a constructive manner.



Marc Mendoza, the managing director of Mediapolis and the press

spokesman on the Media Policy Group of the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising, points out that it’s the publishers who have created this

situation for themselves by publishing earlier and earlier. They hope to

gain a competitive advantage by getting on the shelves first. But they

can’t assume that the rest of the industry will automatically change

their practices to suit.



Mendoza adds: ’Thirty days after cover date has always been accepted

practice. If the PPA genuinely wants to talk about that, this is most

definitely not the way to go about it. I’d like to know why they haven’t

officially approached us at the IPA about this.’



This is a matter that involves clients as well as media buyers -

advertisers also follow the IPA guidelines and only release cash to

agencies after the cover date month ends. The PPA either does not know

this or it wants to do more than shoot itself in the foot. As one agency

boss puts it: ’When we show this letter to our clients, we’ll see who

boycotts whom.’



The letter was signed by the PPA chairman, Sally Cartwright, but last

week she was distancing herself from it, particularly the boycott

threat.



She indicated that details of the initiative were being handled by other

senior figures at the PPA - none of whom were prepared to return

calls.



Perhaps they are too busy fire-fighting and bridge-rebuilding - because

there’s a lot of work to be done. As one buyer puts it: ’This is one

hell of a way to blow all your good will. If you want the truth, I

couldn’t care less about the NRS business. Why should we be worried

about the pounds 5 we spend each year in Yachting Monthly? Sometimes

these people forget just exactly who they are.’



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