Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Compact Evangelist - David Greene, Marketing and Circulation Director, the Independent

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Compact Evangelist - David Greene, Marketing and Circulation Director, the Independent

Article excerpt

At his previous employer, IPC, David Greene was known to liven up dull executive meetings with a bit of tomfoolery - picking up his pencil with his teeth or proposing ribald names for new women's magazines, such as Up For It.

At 39, maybe he has outgrown such antics, or perhaps the effort expended on saving The Independent from extinction has knocked the raffishness out of him. But, in the flesh, the man is not the Jack the Lad one anticipates from the colourful anecdotes. He talks earnestly about the benefits of 'bottom-up' marketing, castigating rivals for overblown, expensive branding campaigns that have had little impact on sales.

It is a belief borne of having to make the most of a marketing budget which, compared with his rivals, is measured in washers, while attempting to prop up a brand that a year ago was in terminal decline. Then, Greene must have been considering the wisdom of leaving the comparative security of IPC's 'ministry of magazines' for the challenge of The Independent. Now, as the paper prepares to celebrate the first anniversary of its compact format on 30 September, he can reflect on an extraordinary 12 months for The Indy, and the newspaper market as a whole.

The compact launch was arguably the most radical move ever made by a broadsheet. The larger format defines the genre, differentiating it from its less serious cousins. The Indy was a minnow trying to revolutionise the market.

Cynics suggest it had little to lose. Its ABC at the time was 218,567, nearly half that of its closest rival, The Guardian, and 200,000 less than The Indy's October 1989 peak. It hardly registered on advertisers' schedules.

But the gamble has paid off - sales in August were 20% up on the previous year, while the rest of the market was down by more than 2%.

While the compact was not Greene's idea - he credits editor Simon Kelner - the marketing and distribution challenge was immense. 'The idea was the easy bit. The difficult bit was persuading retailers to provide two shelf displays (for the different versions) to the 10th-biggest selling newspaper,' says Greene.

He did this partly by bribing retailers, doubling their margin to 30p, but also by sheer hard graft, sending battalions of foot soldiers, including his sister, on merchandising missions to every major shop in the country. …

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