PRs tell us: `We're the Loaded of alcopops and we want to be in your magazine because we're really funky' The editors of the new wave lads' mags were the guests at a seminar with leading PR luminaries
Simon Geller, Maxim: Maxim is three years old. It's a men's glossy, monthly, lifestyle, general-interest mag with a circulation of around 400,000. I don't know what else. The ad lady said, "You must mention the ABs". So, we've got a lot of ABs! If someone can tell me what an AB is, I'd be very grateful. They've got a lot of money? Oh, right. Anyway, it's got some fashion, a lot of health ...

Institute of Public Relations (IPR) chairwoman: A bit of sex?

Geller: Yes, a bit of sex. And it's also got general interest reading.

Adam Black, Loaded: Loaded wasn't founded on any particular marketing concept. This, er, "lad" category is something which has been picked up on by others.

Peter Howarth, Esquire: We are founded on a, if you will, "great literary tradition". So, really, we'll settle for a lower circulation with the so-called "quality vote".

Andy Clerkson, Stuff: The idea came together early last year to produce a hybrid mag of general interest and lifestyle. We thought there was space for a general interest mag, geared towards products - anything men might buy, whether it's a car or, erm, a sex aid.

Adam Black: Or using a car as a sex aid?

Clerkson: We wanted to lend authority to the magazine 'cos we were afraid that, because a lot of men's mags are sort of entertainment-based, people wouldn't believe us. So we bring in a lot of experts to talk about what they know about the latest hi-fi or whatever. In fact, we added up the value of all the products we had in one issue and it came to pounds 28,000. So you need the so-called "aspiration to buy" to buy Stuff.

IPR chairwoman: Do you think men have moved away from looking at pictures, towards wanting to read?

Adam Black: I think it's lucky that Loaded came along when it did. 'Cos before that, in the Eighties, there was a real marketing emphasis on sort of demographics and target audiences, very much the commercial imperatives. The idea for Loaded came about at a Leeds vs Barcelona match, which Leeds surprisingly won. These two guys saw the match and when they came out onto the street afterwards, they thought: "We should make a magazine to replicate this feeling of euphoria." Those two guys were James Brown and Tim Southwell, the co-founders of Loaded. It is supposed to be a magazine with an honest appreciation of women. [The mainly female audience erupts into laughter at this.] Well, you know, a lot of people who don't read Loaded think it's just about naked women and getting pissed. But, the thing is, FHM broke through selling 350,000 copies by putting Jennifer Aniston, one of the most famous women in the world, on the cover. Loaded sold 330,000 with that guy from Father Ted on the cover. FHM is now outselling Loaded mainly because it's a "one-idea magazine", namely, to put famous women on the cover. Loaded has a broader agenda. Before Loaded, magazines were sort of seen by men as a bit poncy.

Peter Howarth: Is "poncy" a technical term?

Black: Loaded is not trying to tell you what clothes to wear or how to live your life; it's about being more down-to-earth. And the funny thing is, loads of people from the marketing world thought Loaded was going to fail. But it's aeons ahead in the publishing world.

IPR: Do you regret the springing up of laddish mags?

Black: Well, we appreciate that the market is very wide. People still talk about the men's magazine market as one market. But the market is growing to the point where it's starting to replicate the women's magazine market. It's becoming quite, if you like, promiscuous. I think the key is editorial integrity. There are always going to be people who like you and people who hate you. So, no, I don't feel threatened by the success of Loaded.

IPR: Are there many opportunities for PR presented by the rise of men's magazines?

Adam Black: I find that in PR, bosses are always trying to create a spin around products. This has been going too far with Loaded sometimes. We get so many people contacting us saying things like, "We are the Loaded of alcopops and we want to be in your magazine because we're really funky". But all this jumping on the bandwagon is just not going to wash with people. Sometimes you just have to tell the client that he's not going to get it. Clients are f**king mental sometimes. At Loaded we do not do grooming.

Simon Geller: We do do grooming - we are the Loaded of conditioners.

Black: We will use product placement in a more subtle way. For example, Virgin actually helped to finance a fashion shoot because we showed the model drinking a bottle of Virgin vodka. But it didn't look too obvious.

Simon Geller: We've had phone calls asking to put something in the gardening section. I tell them that we've never had a gardening section. End of conversation. They hadn't even checked that before calling.

IPR: Are there likely to be many new releases of men's magazines?

Simon Geller: Well, if I win the lottery on Saturday, I will certainly not use the money to launch another magazine, because it's such a high- risk business.

Adam Black: There will be loads of new mags out soon. Now that creative drive has set the agenda, the money men are going to be after more and more launches. The market will keep growing, then flatten out after a couple of years, and then it'll become boring - rather like the success of Woman's Own.