Publishing Agencies: Why Customer MagazineS Now? - The prospect of continuing strong growth in the customer magazines sector has brought high-profile clients, publishers and agencies into the market in the last year. Robert Gray looks at three big names w



As the publisher of Vogue, Tatler, Vanity Fair and GQ, Conde Nast is

arguably the most upmarket and refined of the glossy magazine


Its products are positioned to appeal to affluent and chic consumers -

the ABC1s so beloved of many advertisers.

But when it comes to contract publishing, the company has only dabbled

with clients drawn to its positioning at the luxury end of the market.

Once, there was a publication for Selfridges. Today, it produces

catalogues for Harrods, an annual title for the champagne brand, Veuve

Clicquot, and a quarterly for the department stores group, House of


There is also a loose joint venture with the customer magazine

specialist, Forward Publishing, which has spawned titles for the

jeweller, Aspreys, and the Swiss watch-maker, Patek Philippe. However,

there hasn’t been a strong focus on building the customer magazines

division - until recently, that is.

Last March, Clare Breen, formerly associate publisher of Boutique

magazine in Hong Kong, joined as director of contract publishing.

Moreover, Conde Nast’s managing director, Nick Coleridge, says he is

looking to double profits from the customer magazines operation this

year. He adds: ’We’re used to providing magazines that have to be

interesting enough to sell. We bring these disciplines to customer


The first fruits of the company’s increased focus on customer magazines

is Canary, a quarterly lifestyle title for Canary Wharf Group, aimed at

business executives who work in London’s Docklands commercial centre.

With an expected circulation of 40,000, the first issue will appear on

14 March.

Canary will be followed in the summer by the launch of a 600,000 print

run, multi-language title for a major (as yet unnamed) financial

services client.

Breen says: ’More clients are seeing the benefits of reaching customers

using magazines. What sets us apart from other publishers is that we can

tap into fabulous photographers, brilliant writers and interesting

personalities for our shoots. That must be a huge draw for a



One of the biggest stories of 1999 in the customer magazines sector was

the entry of the ad agency, Publicis, after it took the contract for

Asda Magazine from Premier Magazines. This development was seen in some

quarters as recognition of the agency’s creativity, but as the dust has

settled, it has become clear that it is mainly about strategy.

While Asda has brought more of its marketing communications together

through one agency, the agency’s new magazine operation, Publicis

Blueprint, is symptomatic of a desire to exploit communications channels

other than advertising.

Tellingly, Blueprint’s chief executive, John Wisbey, also heads

Publicis’ direct marketing and technology operations. By binding

together the whole relationship marketing offer, the agency can give its

clients the most appropriate relationship marketing programmes for their


’It’s refreshing for clients to have someone who can talk sensibly about

marketing communications with them and doesn’t always come back

suggesting a magazine as the solution to their needs,’ Wisbey says.

’Asda Magazine was two months in strategic development before we showed

Asda a single piece of creative. And it’s tightly bound in with

everything else they are doing for the brand.’

In addition to its work for Asda, Blueprint has published a magazine for

the Canadian Tourism Commission, Spirit of Canada, and a title sent to

one million shareholders in the Woolwich, called Paying Dividends.

Wisbey says that ’projects with ten major Publicis clients are

advancing’, beginning with a publication for a ’networking’ client that

is on course for a May debut.

The intention, Wisbey adds, is for Blueprint to begin looking later this

year for business from beyond Publicis’ roster of existing clients.

Wisbey expects that, by the end of 2000, the number of staff at

Blueprint will have risen from 28 at present to about 100.


Channel 4 is a long way behind the BBC in terms of the scale of its

publishing activities, but in 1999 it seized the chance to enhance its

TV coverage and branding by launching four magazine titles.

Channel 4 chose to outsource the production of the titles to three

magazine specialists: Future Publishing, Zone and Cabal Communications,

the company set up by Sally O’Sullivan, formerly of IPC and National


Celebrating Chelsea, a 164-page one-off, with a 130,000 print run, was

put together by Cabal to mark Channel 4’s coverage of the Chelsea Flower

Show in May. The next month saw the debut of Test Match Cricket: The

Official Guide, a 64-page magazine produced by Zone. The title cost

pounds 3, had a print run of 110,000 and trumpeted Channel 4’s success

in securing the rights to screen test cricket for the first time.

November saw the appearance of Bath-based Future Publishing’s Music of

the Millennium, designed to amplify the programme and CD of the same

name, and the debut of a bi-monthly A5 title for Channel 4’s

subscription movie channel, FilmFour, again from Zone. The FilmFour

title is sent to subscribers and its circulation will grow in line with

the increasing subscription base, which stands at about 200,000.

FilmFour’s head of marketing and development, Dan Brooke, says the

magazine has three main purposes: to prevent customer ’churn’, to offer

advertisers an additional communications opportunity and to act as a

vehicle for promoting all parts of the FilmFour business - from

production through to distribution - in a single place.

’In the past, we’ve put a toe in the water with magazines,’ Channel 4’s

commercial development manager, Ruth Roscorla, says. ’But as long as it

makes strategic and financial sense, it’s something we’ll carry on



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