Andria Vidler believes she has silenced many of her critics over the past three years. When she first joined 105.4 Magic as managing director in 2005, following a difficult stint at 95.8 Capital in the same role, many took the opportunity to question if she had the commercial nous to meet EMAP’s ambition of making Magic the top station in London.
Yet last week, in the Rajar figures for the second quarter, Magic took a 7.4% share of the London market, its highest ever, and broke the 2 million listener mark – reaching 2,005,000 – for only the second time in its history.
Speaking for the first time about her new role as chief marketing officer at Bauer Media (formerly EMAP), she responds to past critics, suggesting: “I think that is why I am going to be a better chief marketing officer. Magic is not just a listener success, but a brand relaunch that led to greater profitability. I can now bring a sense of efficient marketing that is commercially effective.”
Given the success of Magic, few were surprised when Vidler landed the top role. Simon Stewart, the previous top marketer, left the company after just seven months as H Bauer was completing its £1.1bn acquisition of EMAP’s consumer division. Indeed, Shaun Gregory, now chief executive of mobile phone company Blyk but previously the EMAP brand chief, says it would have been a “travesty” had she not been rewarded with this role. Another industry insider adds that she is “very driven but likeable”. He says: “She is the kind of person that you don’t want to not do as she asks.”
Vidler admits that Stewart’s hands were tied. He joined the company just weeks before EMAP called a strategic review of the business following a series of profits warnings. But she adds he sowed the seeds of a planned restructure around brands that would develop key brands or clusters of brands with their own integrated teams. However, progress was limited by wider events.
Three months into her role, Vidler is now fully immersed in her new role and the strategy that Bauer bought into. The first outward sign of this appeared last week when the company made the symbolic move of scrapping Bauer Consumer Media, Bauer Advertising and Bauer Radio names to become simply Bauer Media. “It is a real demonstration to ourselves and to everybody externally that we are one company, we are magazines, radio and digital – all together.”
However, internally more structural changes are already underway. Last month, it announced that it was promoting radio sales director Adrian Serle to commercial development director and bringing several Bauer advertising divisions together under his remit. He will report to Vidler and aims to make cross-selling a formal part of the business, alongside magazine and broadcast sales. She is also hoping to ramp up the “creative thinking” of the team and is talking to advertising agencies about “how to raise the bar”.
To push this through, Bauer has also set up a Creative Council, made up of employees with a creative element to their roles, and a voluntary creative task force, which invites staff from all parts of the business to work on cracking live briefs. Vidler explains: “EMAP was famous for creativity and I want to re-energise that as there has been a lot going on over the past 12 months. We are working out the best way to start working, it might be to employ ‘big idea’ people.”
This is coupled with a brand-focused rather than platform-led approach to content, marketing and advertising. She admits that some work towards “putting audiences at the centre of the business” had been done but again, it was limited by the strategy review. But she adds: “If you look back a year ago, I don’t think there were many people thinking that magazines and radio would be part of the business, so why reshape?”
To some, this may sound similar to the brand-focused strategy and cross-media sell that EMAP had made much of over recent years. But Vidler says that while it was moving in that direction, it was still hampered by its structure, which was siloed into platform and brand; its limited number of multi-platform brands; and the lack of integration of its brands and content.
Heat, for example, previously had different marketers on each platform with “no real reason” to work together. She adds: “They had their own agenda and targets and although the editorial was linked, we didn’t structure ourselves to make it really easy internally.” It will now create a brand team for each brand or clusters of brands, with a head of marketing, which will include people from different platforms but who will work for the brand rather than their goals.
She adds that although cross-promotion worked on an informal basis, it did not support the company’s big initiatives. “But by formalising the structure, it means that people have to do it, decide what the priorities are and then get behind them.”
In terms of the priorities, the new strategy will pull together under a “mission statement”. Vidler explains: “As EMAP, there was never a simple way of describing what it was; as Bauer we need something simple to build to. Ultimately, we try to create a difference through influential brands. Our brands are influential to their communities.”
There is little doubt that Heat is Bauer’s key brand although Vidler adds that it has about 14 “top brands in all”, such as FHM, Grazia, Kiss, Kerrang! and Magic. However, they are not the only brands that will benefit from cross-media thinking with specialist football magazine, Match, due to benefit from cross-promotion in the coming weeks though tie-ups with Bauer’s locals radio stations, under the Big City network.
While there has been much speculation about the involvement of the Bauers, with some reports suggesting that management in London has not met the family, Vidler says that meetings are frequent – about once a month. But she adds that the Bauers are keen to let the team run the business: “They have not come in and said this is the way it is going to work. They want us to lead the business, they bought the strategy.”
Indeed, she adds that Bauer Media is keen to retain four pillars that were key drivers at EMAP – insight and audience understanding, creativity and innovation, “must have” brands and people – she believes the influence of the Bauers will help it become more efficient operationally.
The Bauers appear to have put much faith in the team it acquired from EMAP. The industry will be watching Vidler and her colleagues to see if they can retain the flamboyance of their former company under the ownership of this “discreet” German family.