I am an avid reader of Andrew Neil’s weekly media commentary in the Evening Standard. I enjoy The Business publisher’s straight-talking and informed opinions: rightly so, he is a media heavyweight, a high-profile individual, a great after-dinner speaker, television presenter, self publicist, and so on… But his personal profile and confidence do not appear to mirror The Business’s marketing strategy to advertisers.
The financial title has long suffered a “no profile”. According to MMS, Manning Gottlieb OMD is the newspaper’s fourth-biggest agency. But I cannot recall being approached by The Business management team with a request to present to us – surely a “fish where the fish are biting” policy makes sense? I appreciate resources have been lean, but I am led to believe that we are not the only agency left wondering why The Business hasn’t been more proactive.
That said, agencies do seek out the most efficient routes to market through the planning process and they do not ignore a title just because it hasn’t been in constant contact. However the newspaper, which is sometimes perceived as an “add-on”, is embarking on what must be a pretty costly venture which seemingly does little to help it to stand on its own two feet. (Mirror Group’s The People newspaper has experienced a similar problem in ad sales. Advertising space was “punted out” in a manner not dissimilar to that of a fast-food joint’s opportunistic counter staff, asking “D’you want fries with that?”, even if you’d only asked for ice cream).
The Business’s recent distribution deal with The Mail on Sunday has certainly raised its profile, and The MoS is a strong brand on which to piggyback (an “add-on”). Many questions are raised, however, such as what advertiser value can be attributed to such freebies? True, The Business will be exposed to new readers – some AB, of course, but how many people will read it? Will the deal cannibalise existing Business sales? Was there any pre-launch research and how long will the deal last?
In addition, I’m not sure how many agencies or clients will be receptive to rate proposals based on a distribution of 400,000, constituting 300,000 through the MoS, 70,000 overseas sales and just 30,000 via UK newsstands.
At first glance The MoS emerges as the clear winner – an already strong brand has just got stronger. The deal will help to enhance its consumer offering and will probably return a modest circulation increase – which was likely to have been a strong motivational factor when evaluating the deal. But it will be some time before we can be certain who is buying the MoS to access The Business and who is actually reading the financial title.
Unless time and money are invested in what is certainly a fairly decent product, to create a desirable brand for advertisers – and dare I say it, agency folk – I fear The Business will be unable to make the distribution deal pay in the long term.v
Mark Gallagher is head of press at Manning Gottlieb OMD