Pitch: An Advertising Agency And A PR Firm Fight It out To Revive The Ailing Women's Magazine `Frank'

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The Independent Culture
John Bacon, Executive Creative Director of FCB

I had to look at the magazine fairly rigorously before I figured out who it was aimed at - and it should be obvious. It looks like the thirtysomething bracket, which is a bit of a nothing bracket.

I would look to the publication that twentysomethings are reading and is selling more than 70,000 copies a month and seek to bring Frank in line with that - so that there is a link between what they used to read and what Frank is offering now.

At the moment I think it's fairly bland and generic. My wife is a bulk consumer of magazines, but she's never bought Frank. The strength of the offering is the name; it is tremendously powerful. It's going to sound terribly obvious, but I would spend a lot of money very quickly, very visibly, mining the name for all it's worth. I'd attach an attitude to the name, as simply as possible - something like "You might as well be Frank".

The advertising would revolve around "being Frank". You could stick a picture of a gorgeous girl on a hoarding with the line "She may as well be Frank". The meaning of it will depend on what she's doing, who she's doing it with, and why she's doing it. All those bits tell the story, and the line becomes the branding. The present strapline - "The new magazine for women" - is a product description. Where's the excitement in that?

I'd go for 15-sheet and 48-sheet posters on prime sites. Ailing publications don't need long-term therapy; you have to fix things very quickly or your patient will be dead. I would seek to be controversial, outrageous - to set my agenda in a way clearly indicative of the magazine's attitude. It's what Cosmopolitan did when it launched, and everyone knows what Cosmo is about: it's about how many orgasms can you have in one night "at it". Vogue is about clothes, Harpers & Queen is about your social life, Vanity Fair is about journalism, but Frank isn't about anything - yet.

Hilary Meacham, managing director of Focus PR

When Frank was launched it was acclaimed for breaking the mould of women's magazines and creating a style that was its own. So it's strange that it has struggled to find its place.

Interestingly, when we called their advertising department to get a profile of who their readers are, they couldn't supply one - which might be where the problem is. Who are they writing for? They could do with some research to find their niche, and then expand on it.

Once they've got some material from their research it'll give them clues as to which way they should go and who their readers are. I'm surprised they've been able to sell advertising without knowing who's buying it.

And it's still got the strapline "The new magazine for women", which has to go. We would come up with a new strapline - according to whatever they decide they are. Company has on its spine "For the freedom years", and that gives anyone a clear sign that it's either for them or it isn't. It isn't particularly obvious, picking up Frank, who it's for.

Then we would suggest a small redesign and re-establish it with a slightly new look. They could also get in a guest editor based on which figures the research showed their readers admired most.

We've found that the best way of promotion is radio, because the reader identifies with the voice. Nicky Campbell has a phone-in show on Radio 5 Live, and if there was a story that interested Frank readers, the editor could go on and take a strong stance. If the research shows that Frank readers spend their money in a certain store, then you could target readers through that store's card or cash desk.

What Frank may have got wrong is distribution. They distributed too many to Sainsbury's and Safeways and too few to newsagent chains. I would buy a magazine at a Tube kiosk, because I think it's part of dashing around, being in London; I would not buy it at 9pm in a supermarket. I think the product's strong; they've just got to get the focus right.