Mark Ritson

For the lifetime of most British marketers there have been two industry publications to inform and guide their careers. The original brand was Marketing founded back in 1931 and, some forty-something years later, Marketing Week. I know both brands very well. Aside from growing up with them as a young marketer, I have written a column for both – from 2002 to 2010 for Marketing, and from 2010 onwards for Marketing Week.

And so last week I read with amazement about the imminent demise of Marketing magazine as a separate entity and its absorption into Campaign. To be fair to Haymarket, the publisher of both titles, that is not how they put it. According to Haymarket the move, scheduled for May, will “unite our teams and our brands together under the Campaign power brand”. When one bemused reader queried the move and asked “does this mean that the Media Week, Marketing and Brand Republic brands disappear?” he was rewarded with the following equally unclear answer: “The brands won’t disappear, but the content from Media Week, Marketing and Brand Republic will be integrated into the Campaign site.”

No-one queries the need for Haymarket, and every other publisher for that matter, to engage in brand consolidation. Readership is down, international and digital expansion is up and the case for focusing on the strongest brands and removing the weaker ones has never been stronger. That rationale is even clearer for Haymarket given the surfeit of marketing titles that they currently operate. Marketing magazine, Media Week, PR Week and Brand Republic all target the same professional space. Fewer brands will give Haymarket more focus, more profit and more growth.

While the case for consolidation is persuasive, the manner in which Haymarket is going about it is less so. While Campaign is a fine, niche publication its selection as the power brand that absorbs Marketing is clearly the wrong move. Even a modicum of branding expertise would tell you that Haymarket has picked the wrong brand to focus on. Marketing has almost four decades more heritage than Campaign. According to the final ABC data before both titles were withdrawn from measurement in June 2013, Marketing has double Campaign’s circulation (albeit with a greater proportion of free subscription). Marketing has double Campaign’s followers on Twitter. If you ask your average marketing executive to name industry publications they will tell you “Marketing Week, Marketing…” and end their awareness set right there. Unless, of course, they work in advertising, in which case Campaign is always top of mind.

But even that result is strong evidence of Marketing’s superiority as the true Haymarket power brand. The discipline of marketing is made up of many different moving parts of which communications, ably and authoritatively covered by Campaign, is merely one very small part. If you look at the true challenges facing 21st century marketers, communication occupies between about 5% to 10% of the day to day job. The other 90% consists of research, product development, segmentation, positioning, channels of distribution, brand strategy, sales force optimisation, pricing and so on. This is the meat of marketing and it has bugger all to do with the Campaign brand, which swims (expertly) downstream in the small pond of marketing communications.

Ironically, one of the problems that Haymarket faces with its consolidation attempts is the brand equity of Campaign, which dominates UK advertising as the industry bible. But most marketers I know perceive themselves entirely differently from and separate to that rare breed of creatives and executives that populate the world of agency land. We see them, occasionally, in briefs and execution meetings but then we head back to our entirely more sensible and substantive territory of marketing land.

If Haymarket had absorbed Campaign into Marketing they would have kept communications within the bigger marketing pie. But by absorbing Marketing into Campaign they have just limited their relevance and scope to 10% of the market they are targeting. It’s a huge, inexplicable error.

Part of me, the bit that writes for Marketing Week and sees Marketing as the main competition for your attention each week, wants to leap from my chair and acclaim this barmy move as the best strategic opportunity in decades for my own title. But the bit that loves brands, appreciates heritage and wants to see companies make the right strategic decisions is telling me to lower my head and weep for a great brand that marked the time of our discipline for 85 years and will now be no more. Perhaps when May arrives, and Marketing disappears, I will know which response is the more appropriate. More importantly, dear reader, you too will have to decide.

Catch Mark at this year’s Marketing Week Live, with his talk: ‘Eight marketing concepts – four stupid and four stupendous

Topics covered included:

  • The marketing world continues to focus much of its efforts on the wrong issues while ignoring the more useful ones
  • Which concepts continue to offer value to marketers as they approach 2017?
  • Which concepts, despite the noise associated with them, are distracting marketers from their core purpose?
  • Customer Journey Mapping, Digital Marketing, CSR, Brand Tracking, Brand Purpose, Zero Base Budgeting and Virtual Reality

For more information about Marketing Week Live and to register for the event click here.

  • Brian George

    Some of Mark Ritson’s comments/articles can be somewhat abrasive, but always a good read and I guess it goes with the territory.
    However I have to say that as much as I grew up with Campaign, I have to completely agree with Mark that at face value it seems completely the wrong way around, as all Haymarket comms titles should logically and from an industry perspective be rolled into one – Marketing, not Campaign.
    I suppose the only justification for this somewhat odd move is that arguably Campaign has more currency and is sexier than Marketing, but that would seem to be about all.

  • Mark, Couldn’t agree more with your logic, for me in order to be able to do, you first need to think. Sadly in this day and age the latter seems to be a very underused capability. Great post, keep us thinking!

  • Joe Clift

    I also agree this makes no sense if Haymarket’s intent is to continue to target marketers. I started in advertising, moved client-side 15 years ago and have increasingly found Campaign to be less relevant to me as a CMO. Have I read it occasionally? Yes. Do I like it? Yes. Do I subscribe to it? No. Is Campaign going to keep me loyal to Haymarket as a first port of call for marketing reading? Doubt it.

  • It is hard to see why Haymarket would make this choice. Of course there may be a reason that we don’t know about. The only one I could think of would be a decision to be an even bigger fish in a small pool rather than a medium sized fish in an increasingly clustered market. The competition is not only Marketing Week.

  • editorialist uk

    Clearly someone needs to play devil’s advocate here – so…

    Advertising is the most lucrative single communications
    industry sector. The agencies are bigger, the budgets are bigger, the brands of
    the players themselves are bigger. There are simply more big, global players in
    advertising than in marketing.

    And it is ad agencies which are buying up other marketing
    disciplines in order to expand and rule. Ad agencies are acquiring digital, content, branding and, yes, marketing agencies – rarely the other way around. Marketers must be watching ad agencies as potential rivals or, indeed, parents.

    So from a commercial point of view, if you’re going to cover
    all of the varieties of fish in a particular sea, surely it makes sense to ally
    one’s publication primarily with the big sharks?

    • Interesting, so you are chasing the numbers rather than truly creating them? While I can fully understand your logic, I completely disagree. As a leading marketing publication you should set the agenda not blindly follow it. Using your analogy, the big sharks follow the bait not the other way around.

  • Martin Ballantine

    To be frank, f*** advertising and all the dodgy dealings that go on, both online and in ‘trad’ media. PR is where it’s really at. Never have people been so motivated to ignore ATL’s hard sell…

  • Phil Barden

    I’m surprised that whoever took this decision didn’t stop to think that there may be meaning in the names of the titles; and the meanings ‘fit’ implicitly and conceptually in a ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of way.

  • Adman

    I think it’s a great opportunity for MW to start engaging with agencies. As someone from an agency I will always read Marketing and Campaign but MW go out of their way not to mention agencies, leaving it difficult for me to engage with a brand that shuns our relevance.

  • Digital Consultancy

    I didn’t even know either were still in print.

  • I worked on the launch of Marketing Week, in Kingly Street and pre-Centaur. The suave and erudite Anthony (with a “th”) Nares was my ad director boss; Michael “I shoot from the hip” Chamberlain was his rough-and-tumble business partner and MW’s editor. Chalk and cheese but a combined force of nature. I was recruited over dinner in the Chelsea apartment of Anthony and Pippa Nares. Here’s the relevant point: we focused our ad sales activities on Campaign’s advertisers, some of whom placed ads just to help us on our way and and give Haymarket a mild slap. At the time, Marketing was a subscription-based highbrow monthly and MW was 100% controlled circulation. This enabled MW to gain a foothold very quickly. BTW, the old red masthead was Nares’s brilliant idea. He cheerfully admitted that he stole it from Time magazine. I’m delighted that MW remains the journal of choice for senior marketers. Haymarket’s ill-conceived strategy will be to Centaur’s benefit, I’m sure.

  • Andrew Crosthwaite

    My regard for Marketing took a slide when my free subscription was cancelled as I was ‘not senior enough’, having started a new division of Euro RSCG that had zero employees. This was despite having written an article for them a month previously.

  • Jason Foo

    On the face of it, Mark Ritson’s argument makes perfect sense. However, I think the basis for the decision may be far more simple. I believe Campaign has a far higher paid subscription base (and higher overall revenue). Readers of Campaign are used to paying for their subscription for the most part. Therefore, if Campaign had been merged into one of the other titles it would be harder to justify to those paid subscribers why they should continue their subscription.

    Advertising revenue can still be generated for the merged titles etc.