Copyright 2001 www.variety.com

[ December 4th 2001 ]

This is the third year that the Association of Publishing Agencies has held its Customer Magazine Awards, an increasingly valuable and instructive showcase for the UK's pounds 366m customer magazine sector.

In each of the categories, the emphasis is firmly on effectiveness. Although the editorial qualities of a magazine are critical in producing a vibrant and dynamic piece of customer communication, no title can win an APA Award unless it demonstrates a marketing benefit to the client that commissioned it.

Sometimes, effectiveness is measured in qualitative terms, such as increased loyalty or improved favourability toward a brand. But many of this year's winners can also demonstrate that they contributed to sales of core and ancillary products. During a downturn, what could be more compelling than a marketing tool that keeps up the dialogue with loyal customers and also shifts product?

Every year so far, the number of entries for the APA Awards has increased - with around 25% more hopefuls this year than last. This in itself is an endorsement of the awards' growing appeal. Even more interesting, however, is the growing diversity of the entries.

Among this year's winners are magazines for a football club and a mobile phone accessories company - underlining the fact that customer magazines can do a job for almost anyone. Just as gratifying for the APA is the performance of the mainstream sectors, with great ingenuity shown in the automotive, finance, travel and retail sectors. Winner of Customer Communication of the Year was ONELIFE. Land Rover is an 'experience' brand - a fact it has been at pains to demonstrate through its high-profile link up with the Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie. When Redwood was asked to produce a customer magazine for the Ford-owned brand, it was expected to contribute forcefully to this overall communications goal. At the same time, however, it needed to fulfil practical roles - such as encouraging driver loyalty and targeting new prospects.

The result of its efforts is ONELIFE, a title that first saw the light of day in 1999. Under the editorship of Michael Harvey, the title has gone from strength to strength, increasing its frequency and coming out in six different languages.

Key to the editorial positioning are core Land Rover attributes such as heroism and authenticity, concepts that Harvey has adeptly instilled throughout ONELIFE's stories and photography. Not content with reaching out simply to auto-anoraks, he has also commissioned high-quality stories on topics as diverse as Ernest Shackleton and the Blues in the American South, in order to create a compelling read.

Redwood - which is well respected for the quality of its research - says the results of Harvey's efforts are striking. Based on a telephone survey, 46% of readers have thought about upgrading or buying a Land Rover as a result of reading the title and 34% have actually done so. In terms of existing Land Rover owners, 75% say that ONELIFE makes them feel valued and 47% say the magazine highlighted products and services they had not previously considered.

The judges were impressed, calling ONELIFE 'an original concept, brilliantly executed. It is a dramatic publication - and the sense of the brand is well communicated.' Special mention was made of Harvey - 'a serious contender' for editor of the year.

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