The effect of the overhaul programme is somewhat patchy, Alasdair
That old cliche about ’having to run hard just to stay in the same
place’ could have been invented for the Mirror. Unfortunately, for many
periods over the last decade or so, the Mirror has had the athletic
abilities of an asthmatic dog.
This year, things were going to be very different. In January, the
Mirror Group began a commitment, expected to cost pounds 16 million over
two years, to overhaul the paper. An editorial relaunch has already seen
the word ’Daily’ dropped from the masthead and the introduction of the
picture-dominated, almost text-free front pages much beloved of
publishers on the Continent and in the US. That has been backed up on
the marketing side by promotions and tactical TV advertising.
The result? The Mirror’s average daily sale in January was 2,457,000,
down from 2,560,052 for the same period in 1996 - a year-on-year decline
of 4 per cent. However, the January sale was up by 150,804 copies a day
- or 6.5 per cent - on the December average sale. But performance was
patchy. In the week ending 4 January 1997, the paper sold an average of
2,770,000, which is excellent in a week that took in the tail end of the
festive season. Yet, by the last week in January, the daily average was
down to 2,370,000. That, in anyone’s terms, is perilously close to being
back at square one.
So, senior Mirror executives must have been feeling slightly nervous
last Tuesday evening when the Sun began advertising its latest audacious
marketing coup - a free giveaway tie-up with Camelot to promote the
first midweek lottery draw. The Sun printed and distributed eight
million copies last Wednesday and though there were complaints that the
stampede meant that loyal readers had to go without their paper, it was
an awesomely good promotion - especially considering it was paid for by
This in the week that the Mirror was spending more than pounds 1 million
to promote the launch of its new ’syndicate’ game. As a News
International source put it: ’They must be sick. They’ve spent all that
money launching their game and got nothing for it. We’ve blown them out
of the water.’
Do they feel sick? Not at all, senior Mirror sources say. The syndicate
promotion has been a resounding success and circulation was actually up
by 15 per cent on Camelot Winsday.
But, in general, they are pretty upset that the market isn’t giving them
any breathing space. The overhaul programme is only a month old and a TV
branding campaign broke only this week. The message is: give us a
But, in PR terms, the Sun initiative was a great success, especially in
the advertising world. Agencies tend to believe that the Sun’s ability
to steal the Mirror’s thunder is symptomatic. Colin Gottlieb, the
managing partner of Manning Gottlieb Media, argues that Mirror
management lacks chutzpah. ’The only one I’d exclude from that is the
editor, Piers Morgan.
Without him, I’d hate to think what the circulation would be.’
Priscilla Rogan, the deputy media director of WCRS, says that she’d love
to be proved wrong about the Mirror, but she believes that it is still
miles off the pace. ’We know that this market is price sensitive. It is
unlikely that the Mirror will put on sales while it remains two pence
more expensive than the Sun.
I’m also not at all convinced by the editorial changes - it’s trying to
be all things to all people,’ she says.
Rogan agrees that the paper still has to address some fundamental
cultural problems: ’The Sun is lively and dynamic in all aspects of its
The Mirror isn’t really proactive. It follows rather than leads. It
needs to inject some dynamism into the brand and then start promoting
Easier said than done, I’m afraid.’