Mark Ritson: Haymarket Media Group has forgotten that marketing comes before advertising

By consolidating its magazine titles under the Campaign brand instead of Marketing, publisher Haymarket has neglected 85 years of heritage and put the ad agency world ahead of the wider marketing discipline.

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 According to the final ABC data before both titles were withdrawn from measurement in June 2013, Marketing has double Campaign’s circulation (albeit with a greater proportion of free subscription).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.


Mark Ritson: Why Procter & Gamble has to cull so many brands

Mark Ritson

It’s been a warm and wet Summer, even by English standards and my roses are out of control. Enormous, perfume-filled blooms have dominated the back garden for the past three months. But with the floral show now over, the CEO of Ritson Household plc has been dropping heavy hints that it’s time to “sort the roses”.

Alain de Botton

Brands can be a means of spreading genius or idiocy

Alain de Botton

High-minded people are often instinctively suspicious of the idea of brands. Brands can seem hateful on so many grounds: because of their maddening ubiquity (they surprise us on a mountain walk or on arrival in a new country where we’d gone specifically to experience a different culture); because they squeeze out smaller independent alternatives to which they are often the inferiors; or because they radiate values which appear to us fake, exaggerated or plain daft. It’s natural to suppose that we would, ideally, live in an entirely unbranded world.