EMAP Active plans international drive

Peterborough is to become one of Europe’s most exciting centres of publishing, if new EMAP Active group marketing director Andrew Gillespie has his way.

Publishing giant EMAP has regrouped its consumer magazines businesses, combining four of its six divisions under one new umbrella brand – EMAP Active.

The move has sparked talk of launches, acquisitions, international licensing deals and a search for a new advertising agency.

Gillespie, who is currently magazine distributor Frontline’s trade marketing director, says: “This is an opportunity for a total change and restructuring in the way the marketing operation works.”

EMAP lan and EMAP Metro remain intact and are the standard by which Active is to judge itself. It will look for an advertising agency to boost its image. “We have got to find the right creative partner to talk to the consumer and we will use a high quality agency to do it,” says Gillespie.

It has not been decided whether the new division will employ Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the agency that Metro uses, or Elan’s agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe. “It could be better to have a bespoke agency for Active – our titles are radically different to lan and Metro,” says Gillespie.

Historically the four divisions which make up Active – Apex, Pursuit, Nationals and Images – have laboured under the shadow of lan and Metro’s glamorous titles like FHM, Q, Smash Hits, Elle, More! and New Woman.

The 58 titles published by EMAP Active do not attract the headline attention of its sister groups. Angling Times, Golf World and Motor Cycle News are the sort of titles well-known only to specialists.

All of Active’s titles will fall under one of seven new divisions within the company. They are: motoring; motorcycling; angling; sport; leisure and technology; over-Fifties; and country and specialist titles. A publishing director will oversee each division.

Active’s titles do achieve high circulation figures. Yours, a title for the over-Fifties, hit a readership of 260,000 for July to December 1997. EMAP lan’s New Woman commands similar figures.

A handful of Active titles are ready to become major flagship brands within the domestic market and abroad, according to Gillespie.

He says: “We’ve got 58 products, there is no way that all of them can be major brands. But one or two key titles will become ‘must buys’.”

Gillespie adds: “It is possible for us to create more consumer loyalty than lan or Metro whose titles are prone to the fickle life stages of the consumer. But, with enduring interests in sports and leisure, if you get a brand right it can inspire enormous loyalty.”

Gillespie will have a team of 70 marketers at Active. He says their mantra will be “passionate people, essential products, loyal customers”.

Traditionally, magazine publisher marketing departments are concerned with circulation and promotions. Such as what cover-mounts to put on which titles.

Gillespie says: “I want to refocus the way the business and the team think about marketing. Our plans will be built around what excites the consumer, rather than the advertiser.”

EMAP Active group deputy managing director and current EMAP Pursuit managing director, Barry Dennis, says growth will be easier now that EMAP has consolidated into one division.

Dennis says: “When we work as separate entities, no one is checking the radar for ideas which fall outside our specialist areas. Together, we can look at good ideas and at expansion.”

Dennis sees opportunities for Active in markets beyond magazines. He is exploring opportunities on the Internet and contract publishing, as well as international deals.

EMAP is well placed for foreign expansion. It is the second biggest publisher in France, it bought into Australia just over a year ago and EMAP Business Communications has interests in Singapore. It could publish its own titles abroad or license them. Car magazine is already published in Russia.

Andy McDuff, IPC managing director music and sport, says the establishment of EMAP Active mirrors how IPC has tackled the specialist title market.

McDuff adds: “If EMAP is going to raise the profile of its sports and leisure titles within the advertising community, it bodes well for us. EMAP Active will increase awareness among consumers and the market will be worth more as a whole.”

McDuff says clustering divisions with cross-magazine appeal makes sense for launches and acquisitions.

It also brings major benefits for the advertisers and the publisher. McDuff says: “If you try and get a non-core title onto a schedule, media buyers haven’t got time. But if you introduce it through a package with advertising and sponsorship as a one-stop solution, the title has more chance. In my group, there are strong, high profile brands – like Loaded – which raise the profile of the whole group. It allows us to talk about rugby or soccer to advertisers such as Nike and Adidas, which are very interested in Loaded.”

McDuff says IPC has already begun the process of taking titles to an international stage: “Increasingly, we are looking at the international market. We license Cycle Sport in the US, and we have just signed a deal to license World Soccer in Russia.

EMAP consumer magazines’ third mega brand looks set to turn the spotlight on specialist interest titles. Whether this injects the dynamism implied by its moniker into this market still remains to be seen.

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