Feb 10 2008

On eggs and baskets

Published by at 10:53 pm under Comms,Media

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Richard Millington raised some interesting questions on Friday about what happens when a media outlet implodes, and the impact on client relationships for PR agencies who had recommended said outlet. The case in question is (was) New Woman. I’ve never read it, but the front cover shot on Richard’s blog looks pretty standard; sex, fashion, dieting, celebs … the formula espoused by a whole raft of similar titles.

Reminded me of a time, many years ago when, on my ‘gap year’, I found myself dabbling in marketing and PR (along with landlord/tenant law, design, food tasting and who knows what else) for a now sadly defunct restaurant in Mayfair.

It was the run-up to Christmas. The make-or-break period for so many restaurants, when you can compensate for an entire year’s mediocre turnover with six chaotic weeks of office parties. The year was 1992, which sets an interesting context. There was no internet, of course, and cellphones were in their infancy. So our pre-Christmas marketing blitz took two main forms: direct mail (and fax) shots to likely corporate targets, and quarter- or half-page ads in a clutch of magazines.

One major recipient of our marketing budget was City Limits – a hip, happening competitor to Time Out but with far more reasonable advertising rates. I can still visualise the monochrome, line-drawn ads we placed, complete with robins on branches, Santa, that sort of thing.

Anyway. One afternoon in October, I got a call from one of the ad sales people at City Limits. “We’re closed,” she said. “They’ve pulled the plug.” Which was a shame. I’d stuck my neck out, placed ads (with advance payment) in this publication – ads which had brought in some business, too – and now they’d gone under.

But did I get fired? Did we lose our expected surge of pre-Christmas bookings? Nope. We diverted our spend to the competition – Nine to Five, Ms London, Midweek and the like – and life went on.

Which brings me, in a very roundabout and nostalgic way, to my point.

Publications come and go. So do websites, radio stations, TV channels, and any other form of media outlet you care to mention. But, unless you can point me in the direction of an outlet which genuinely does define its market sector to the exclusion of all others, we’d all be mad to place our eggs in one basket – or to advise clients to do so.

I’m sure whoever’s been schmoozing (or devoting ad spend to) New Woman on the advice of their PR consultants has been doing the same with any number of competitor publications. And if they haven’t? They really should look for a new agency.

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