Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Looking for Loyalty

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Looking for Loyalty

Article excerpt

Adam Freeman, director of consumer media at Guardian News & Media, faces a tough brand-development task. Interview by Sarah Johnson.

Guardian News and Media (GNM) is losing about pounds 100,000 a day, so its decision last week to restructure its board as part of a cost-cutting drive is no surprise; replacing its highly experienced and respected marketing director, Marc Sands, with marketing novice Adam Freeman, however, is.

Freeman, 40, has been elevated to the new role of director of consumer media, taking responsibility for marketing alongside display advertising and newspaper sales, for The Guardian, Observer and guardian.co.uk. It's a big remit and one where he might find his time thinly spread.

With his expertise lying firmly in media sales and digital strategy, it is easy to question whether GNM has relegated the marketing discipline in importance. Freeman is quick to respond to this line of questioning, and slightly defensive. 'I'm not Marc Sands. He's a brilliant marketer, but I've got a different job,' he says. 'I know my strengths and weaknesses. I've not done the classic marketing route, but I understand the consumer.'

Formulating a strategy

Freeman knows the Guardian brand well. He has worked for the group for 14 years, with a two-year break when he was sales and marketing director for an online magazine shop, which has since closed.

He is also popular with the media buying community. Alan Brydon, head of press at MPG, says: 'Adam always starts from the assumption that there can be a beneficial result for everyone - he does things by stealth rather than confrontation. He's not about self-promotion within the industry.'

Nonetheless, combining the marketing of a major media brand while overseeing ad sales, newspaper sales and financial performance is a risky move, especially at a time when the newspaper industry is fighting for every reader and ad it can get. Something might have to give, but, as yet, it's unclear what Freeman will focus on.

'I'm a generalist, but I do have specialists around me that will continue to do a great job,' he says. 'There is a huge amount of talent working on not only the brand, but also research, creative and in other areas. My job is to provide an environment that brings the best out of the team.'

As for GNM's marketing strategy, which has in recent years focused on partnerships and promotions, it is still unclear what the future holds, although Freeman promises that it will not be discontinued. 'We are not going to withdraw from marketing,' he insists, 'but we might be spending the money in different ways.'

Brand work has been notably absent in recent times. This month, The Guardian has partnered with Save the Children to produce a series of online films, gave away a DVD to promote last week's cinema release of Fantastic Mr Fox and produced a 'great fairy tales' series of books.

Freeman admits it has been a long time since The Guardian has done branding work, for which it has received plaudits in the past, but insists this still forms a vital part of its long-term strategy. When asked what his future agenda will be, he says: 'It's about consumer loyalty - that's the key priority and what the strategy will be built around. Understanding consumers is essentially the core role for marketing.'

This is becoming a well-versed line for news publishers. This year, rival news group News International (NI) has introduced a 'customer direct' department to focus on building long-term relationships with readers and gathering information to ensure products are tailored to their habits and needs. …

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