Where is the love for magazines?

I Love Magazines is “the most extensive trade campaign in a decade promoting the strength, vibrancy and relevance of Austra­lian magazines”. It’s no secret why action is needed. Magazines are losing their lustre as ad buyers and readers alike are drawn to the shiny new world of the internet. Few publishers have as much to lose as ACP. In the most recent batch of Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, some of its biggest mastheads reported year on year falls. In the July to December period, Australian Women’s Weekly was down 3% and Cleo was down 14.1%. In the October to December figures for weeklies, Grazia was down 19% and Woman’s Day was down 6% (it wasn’t all bad news, with titles such as Belle and Australian Home & Garden bucking the trend).

While ACP held its own as the market leader, with a 51.3% share, the threats are clear. ACP managing director Phil Scott blamed the weaker results on the downbeat climate, not just the ascendency of new media.

“While the rise of digital media is a reality, we do not believe it was as significant a factor on magazine sales in the December half as cyclical issues in the Australian economy,” said Scott.

The first phase of I Love Magazines targets advertisers. The growing fragmentation of media means the competition for their marketing dollars is fiercer than ever. ACP’s plan of attack to woo ad buyers back to the printed page is to show off just what is possible with ink on paper. At the heart of this campaign about magazines is an actual magazine – a limited-edition publication that showcases just what printers can do to make print stand out.

This book was created by leading printers in collaboration with ACP. It is being used to promote the possibilities of print to advertising agencies, which is phase one of the campaign – targeting the trade.

ACP’s production team, headed by general manager for production services Ian McHutchison, have spent months working with printers, such as PMP, Webstar and Offset Alpine, to develop a magazine that acts as a swatch book for the possibilities of display advertising.

Group effort

Other printers involved in the project include Caxton Web, Into Print, Mega­colour, Blue Star, Geon and STI Lilyfield. Their role was to each produce a section of the magazine. These were pulled together at Webstar’s plant in Sydney and perfect bound on its Kolbus line – the fastest machine of its kind on the country. Techniques on show include everything from tip-ons to pull-outs and from textured varnishes to other special finishes.

Printers are equally aware of the importance role campaigns like this play to the long-term viability of the printing industry. Offset Alpine general manager Craig Dunsford said ACP’s campaign “highlights the relevance of the printed medium and identifies the important part we continue to play in delivering news and advertising in a dynamic and totally unique way”.

AllKotes business development manager Darren Delaney agrees the initiative is an opportunity to educate the buyers of the possibilities of print: “We need to show the local print buyers and publishers that they can have all the special effects that are on offer anywhere in the world right on their door step.”

Paperlinx’s NSW group regional manager, Ian Winters, adds: “Our support is not just to ensure the financial wellbeing of the industry but also to educate the end users of our product in the fact that the use of paper is environmentally sustainable and socially responsible as well as being a highly effective medium for advertising providing a strong return for those advertisers that invest in printed media.”

Of all the applications on show in the book, one particular standout is the 3D spread. This features publicity shots taken during the filming of a TV commercial for the campaign (filmed at PMP’s Moore­bank facility). A pair of 3D glasses can be easily removed from a discrete slit on the page. The spread was printed by PMP on 80gsm Nevia Gloss supplied by CellMark/Gold East Paper. McHutchison notes it is a favourite of his production team.

“When you get a bit of enthusiasm from production people you know you’ve done something good,” he says. “Even the dust jacket – when it was first suggested, I thought ‘why do you want to do that?’ But now I think it’s one of the best elements.”

ACP initially brought together the printers and its in-house creative team to thrash out creative ideas for the limited-edition magazine.

“There were a lot of ideas that came up from the creative team that we could do, but it got down to the practicality and at the end of the day this is meant to look like a magazine and not a book. All of these elements can be done without huge production costs,” says McHutchison.

Deborah Thomas, ACP’s general manager for media, public affairs and brand development, agrees the key to the project was to create a magazine full of techniques that were easily reproduced at an affordable price. “A lot of these things have been done in various campaigns – a tip-on is a tip-on, a poster is a poster. But I think the interesting thing here is they are together in one magazine,” says Thomas.

“We hope clients will pick up on them and create projects for all of those printers that got involved.”

Thomas, former editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly and now the company’s official spokesperson, admitted that the company’s production team has out together “trick books” in the past but nothing to this extent. A run of 10,000 copies will be distributed to advertising agencies across Australia.

ACP took inspiration for the campaign from the Magazine Publishers of America, which launched its ‘Power of Print’ initiative in March last year. The US approach used print ads to promote the vitality of magazines as a medium to advertisers, shareholders and industry influencers. Hearst Magazines, Time Inc, Conde Nast and Meredith Corporation all got behind the campaign, rolling out a series of print adverts across 100 titles for months.

Similarly, the first step of I Love Magazines used display ad in leading ACP titles featuring key industry figures, such as Harvey Norman managing director Katie Page and Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes.

Driving force

ACP’s Phil Scott has been a driving force in the campaign since he was promoted to the role in November 2010. Scott was also responsible for ACP rejoining trade association Magazine Publishers of Australia and it is expected the publishing house will work with the body to drive the I Love Magazines campaign going forward.

Scott says: “In the business of magazines, many of us have ink in our DNA. For us, the I Love Magazines campaign is about passion for publishing and confidence in the future of magazines.”
I Love Magazines is just one way ACP is working to secure its printed future. The country’s highest-selling magazine, Australian Women’s Weekly, underwent a makeover last year with a redesign and a supporting $4.5m TV campaign as well as the launch of the title’s iPad app.

Digital platforms should be embraced not shunned, says Thomas. “It’s how we move the company forward and we see it as an opportunity to extend our brand. Clients don’t come to you these days just wanting to buy a page in the magazine. They want to be integrated with the other brands.”

Apps might be new and sexy, but magazines still resonate strongly with consumers. ACP partnered with Neuro-Insight, a recognised leader in the neurological research of consumer behaviour, to get some data to back this up. The research revealed that both sides of the brain are engaged when we read magazines.

ACP is not working with other publishers on the campaign, but it believes its work will benefit the whole industry, rivals included. As Thomas explains: “In a subliminal way, the campaign is promoting other companies because it is promoting magazines as an industry. Industry leaders saying ‘we love magazines’, that has got to reflect well on the others in the industry.”

Since February, ACP has begun targeting readers in the second phase of I Love Magazines. It is running a $5,000 daily cash giveaway to a people who buy one of 22 ACP titles. Customers will be able to enter the campaign by submitting an SMS or phoning in a unique code printed in these 22 titles. Newsagents that sell a winning magazine will pocket $1,000.

In the meantime, the publishing house will be focusing on taking its “trick book” out to the media buyers to showcase the possibilities of print at an affordable price. Backing this up with hard facts that show the emotional connection readers have to the printed page will only help its cause.

It is clear that the future of the printed magazine as we know it is under threat. Newspapers and magazines alike are struggling as consumers find alternative ways to access their news and entertainment. More media channels means the ad spend is being spread thin. ACP has put its money where its mouth is and tackled the challenge head on. But the battle ahead is considerable. The question is, will this campaign help win back the ad man’s marketing dollar and ensure copies fly off the newsstand or just delay the inevitable that much longer?

Campaign brief

What I Love Magazines campaign across print advertising in ACP titles and a limited edition magazine featuring different print techniques created by participating printers and suppliers.

Why – To promote magazines as a medium to advertisers and consumers.

Who – is involved ACP Magazines is spearheading campaign with the help of industry companies, such as printers and paper merchants:

• AllKotes
• Blue Star
• Burgo Group
• Caxton Web
• CellMark
• Dagaz Paper
• Ego
• Geon
• Gold East Paper
• InfoPrint
• Megacolour
• Offset Alpine Printing
• Spicers Paper
• STI Lilyfield
• Webstar

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