LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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'Team' model common among U.S. magazines

Randall Rothenberg's column ("Brit's team approach to mag management makes sense," Viewpoint, AA, March 31) failed to note that, while the consumer magazine industry has a vast variety of successful publishing models, a large percentage of U.S. magazines have been operating on the same or similar model as the "British" one for years. Excellent examples can be found in a myriad of special-interest, enthusiast magazines as well as in more broad-based titles.

The committed individuals in these companies live and breathe their publications with a passion-all united around a love for the editorial. Many of these titles are independently owned and highly profitable. By necessity, they operate on a central management team model to achieve success. And they do so while maintaining very solid church/state guidelines.

These magazines represent categories such as crafts (sewing, quilting, knitting, weaving, beading), politics (left, right and center), building (homes, log cabins, timber frame, kitchens), collecting anything and everything, sports (flying, walking, diving, running, boating, fishing), cooking, gardening, to name a few. This group of magazines thrives because they have established strong brand recognition, which translates to tremendously loyal readership.

Hundreds, probably thousands, of magazines that operate around the same model as the one described in Rothenberg's article are often the brands that don't get the recognition, but they are strong, impassioned vehicles for millions of Americans. As the association that represents them, we feel their story should be told.

Nina Link

President-CEO

Magazine Publishers of America

New York

Don't be surprised by contradictory trends

I agree with Rance Crain's point of view ("Urgency of change is touted, but marketers favor safe bets," Viewpoint, AA, March 24) and would add three observations.

* We should never make the mistake of assuming that what is good for the conference business is good for business. A conference about how effective 30-second TV advertising can be would not sell many tickets.

* It has always struck me as ironic that it is perceived to be "more accountable" to know exactly which 98.5% of a direct mail campaign did not work than not to know which half of an advertising campaign did.

* If you can't ride two horses at once, don't join a circus.

Our business is full of contradictory but real trends. Global vs. local. Integrated vs. disintegrated, etc., etc. The only things to be "absolutist" about are, first, that the persuasive quality of the work that consumers touch is all that matters, whatever it is (TV, print, e-mail, product placement, etc.), and second, that excellence in this depends on securing an unfair share of a limited pool of exceptional talent.

Everything else can stay the same. Or change. And it won't matter.

Andrew Robertson

President

BBDO Worldwide

New York

Where Kmart can find the 'stuff' of branding

Less than a week after Kmart "downsized" its honcho for TV advertising (Late News, AA, March 17) comes word that the retailer lost a colossal $3 billion. When you spend $270 million in measured media, I suppose you expect to do better. Yet despite the capable talents of Spike Lee's "Stuff of Life" campaign and the curiously happy feet of that dude dancing in his Joe Boxers, it appears there was no blue light at the end of the tunnel. So, go ahead. Blame the ad guy.

Kmart's new CEO clearly has his work cut out. Emerge from bankruptcy, close 300 stores and lay off 35,000 employees (just 34,999 to go). Once he gets around to marketing, he may be tempted to bankroll another expensive ad campaign, assuming that just the right message will be the panacea to Kmart's woes. Far from it.

Even the best advertising cannot by itself restore Kmart's once-respected brand. Consider: After Pete Rose signed a multi-million-dollar contract with the Phillies in 1978, his wife was reported to have asked, "They got a Kmart in Philadelphia?" Talk about brand loyalty! But somewhere along the way, Kmart lost its sense of what that brand is.

Rediscovering the Kmart brand should come first. What Rosie and Penny, Winona and Naomi, or Spike and the underwear guy could not do was make customers forget that shopping in Kmart can be a dreadful experience. Stores are less than sparkling, shelves are stocked in austere fashion and dispirited employees treat shoppers as distractions.

Job 1 is fixing what's broken. Among the casualties: the Kmart brand. Finding it starts not with advertising but with tangible branding. It's what consumers touch and feel to form opinions about a company.

It's time for Kmart to forget the sizzle and work on the substance. They won't turn things around with catchy slogans, new logos or trendy ad campaigns but must focus their efforts internally, defining and executing against a clear identity. I think they'll find that that's the real "Stuff of Life."

Kelly O'Keefe

CEO

Emergence

Richmond, Va.

Video games offer major opportunity

I don't play video games but isn't advertising missing a gigantic opportunity here to reach the elusive younger generation? They spend $9.4 billion on games. Aren't games super sponsorship material? Isn't game content ideal for advertising messages beamed at highly focused minds? It's a brand new pop up world!

Steven F. Unwin

Business Dynamics

Kingwood, Texas

Correction

In "Sony's $50 million Aiwa biz in review" (March 31, P. 8), it was incorrectly reported that Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, New York, confirmed it was in the pitch. The agency had declined to comment.

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