Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Free Gift (with Magazine Attached)

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Free Gift (with Magazine Attached)

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID ROWAN

IT could have been the reality-TV smash hit of the summer: Newsagent Survivor, in which volunteers are locked naked inside a remote branch of WH Smith, and forced to live only on what they can find affixed to magazine covers. Then again, perhaps this summer the challenge would have been too easy: apart from eating the Frusli bars stuck to Health &Fitness covers and drinking the absinthe offered free with Bizarre, they 'd have been able to wear the T-shirts affixed to Shape, Elle and Star, the flip-flops cover-mounted with Cosmo, and the sunglasses given away with Tatler and GQ.

Not to mention the funky wrist cuffs offered with TV Hits.

This summer,competition has reached unprecedented levels on the news stand,with circulation directors relying as ever before on cover-mounted gifts.The trend is expensive,risks damaging the editorial brand,and produces rapidly diminishing returns,but according to the publishers,the greater risk lies in not joining in."We 're in a spiral of competition,and I can 't see anyone saying it 's a great thing," laments Peter Stuart,publishing director at Conde Nast 's GQ."It boosts sales in the short term, but the trend can 't increase much further before there 's a reaction."

GQ previously encouraged sampling with giveaway books,supplements,CD-Roms and music CDs before its circulation department offered Stuart the "surprisingly reasonable "sunglasses affixed to July 's cover."You hope that a proportion of the new readers you attract will stay,and you also hope to boost your six-month ABC,"he explains, "although nowadays agencies know what 's going on and ask for circulation figures for each issue."In Stuart 's experience, music CDs are among the most effective circulation-boosters,but can cost up to [pound]1.30 each.Yet with Esquire this month offering a pack of cards against GQ 's sunglasses,Stuart fears diminishing returns from such investments (often in six figures)especially in such a competitive climate when,in theory,"I could put a free [pound]1 coin on the cover,and Esquire could offer a [pound]5 note."

But the "gift war "carries other risks.Over at IPC Ignite,which publishes music and lifestyle magazines including Loaded, Uncut and NME,marketing director Vijay Solanka warns Conde Nast that it 's making "a very dangerous move "."I 'm not convinced those GQ sunglasses reflect a magazine that 's perceived to be an upmarket brand.

Try them down the King 's Road and see what response you get."

The key,says Solanka,is to ensure that gifts fulfil a genuine need and are relevant to a magazine 's audience.For men 's magazines such as Loaded,editorial supplements have proved a banker;for film and music magazines,CDs work if they offer exclusive tracks. …

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