Diana’s anniversary fuels media frenzy

The first anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales will cause a problem for Mercedes-Benz.

The car manufacturer will suspend its advertising between August 27 and September 2 as a mark of respect for Diana, killed in a crash involving one of the company’s S-Series limousines.

Media owners, brands, and media agencies, are preparing themselves for a bonanza of Diana tributes on and around the date of the anniversary, August 31. Some will attempt to maximise the gains from increased circulation or TV ratings by charging companies a premium to advertise.

Chris Shaw, Universal McCann joint managing director, says: “Media owners will try to charge a premium of about ten per cent on top of their usual rates. But I don’t think they will get it.”

He explains: “If you are planning a campaign, there will be so much Diana material that if you want something cheaper linked to her, you will find it easily. But a lot of media will be unaffected by Diana: you will still be able to plan an effective campaign.”

Booth Lockett Makin media director Ian Clark sums up the position: “It’s an emotive issue. I’d be surprised if the decision to appear in Diana-related media was a company stance in all but a few instances. It is more of a personal decision by individual marketing and media directors who lead these campaigns.”

All terrestrial stations will show at least two special programmes each during the week of her death.

Among BBC TV’s offerings is a 75-minute documentary called The Princess’s People, on reactions around the country on the weekend of Diana’s funeral. There will also be a Songs of Praise special remembrance service.

ITV items include a programme called Unseen Diana, on ordinary people’s private meetings with her, and Diana’s Children, which focuses on her role in children’s issues.

One of Channel 4’s highlights is Diana: The Mourning After, where cultural critic Christopher Hitchens explores the idea of a nation in grief.

Channel 5 has already shown an evening of programmes on Diana earlier this month. It ended with a biopic on the last year of her life, called The People’s Princess. The film attracted 1.8 million viewers and an 8.5 per cent share of the viewing public. Since Channel 5’s average share is four per cent, it shows that Diana’s power to pull audiences is undiminished. The channel will follow this up with a three-week series on the Princess, called The Diana Years.

Magazines have always had an intense interest in the Princess, and have no intention of being left behind. This month’s Vanity Fair has a cover feature on Diana.

IPC’s managing director of women’s weeklies, Linda Lancaster-Gayle, says: “Each of the weeklies will be doing something on Diana. We are not putting her on the cover, but there will be pictures inside and editorial specials. We’re not doing anything extra on the advertising side because we don’t think that is appropriate.”

Over the years, Hello! has arguably given over more editorial space to Diana than any other in any other medium.

Hello! advertising and sales director Jon Humphrey says: “There will be a lot of editorial in the magazine and Diana will be on the cover of the August 29.”

He continues: “We have had a number of approaches from advertisers for Diana-related merchandise, and we have taken the decision not to run with some of them. We have focused on products we felt were appropriate.”

Newspapers, national and local, have much to thank Diana for in life and death. All of the national newspapers will commemorate the event over the next week.

Typically, the tabloids and the mid-market press will produce partworks, while the broadsheets will include extended features in their magazines.

Last Friday, the Evening Standard based the whole of its ES magazine on Diana. Evening Standard advertisement director Sue Minnikin says: “We have taken some advertising for it, but obviously we have been quite sensitive. It would have been insensitive to place ads for Diana memorabilia. It’s wrong, and would have been seen as cashing in.”

Talk Radio managing director Paul Robinson says: “This is a diff-icult anniversary to handle and it’s not at all obvious how to approach it. We will take a dignified and low key approach.

“There was such a real outpouring of grief when the tragedy happened. This time, people want a lower key approach to the event.”

Talk Radio will have just one four hour show on August 31 called Idols and Icons, which will discuss celebrity deaths throughout this century. Robinson stresses that the ads in this show will not be sold at a premium rate.

In some ways, the idea of a Diana anniversary is irrelevant. As Shaw points out: “Diana has never gone away. Newspapers like the Daily Mail and the glossy magazines have not stopped running partworks and features on her.”

Some media owners may already be planning their Diana Christmas specials.

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