MEDIA: Chief’s exit reveals cracks in the Mirror

After less than six months in the post, Mirror Group Newspaper’s head of marketing, Charles Kirchner, walked out of Canary Wharf last week.

After less than six months in the post, Mirror Group Newspaper’s head of

marketing, Charles Kirchner, walked out of Canary Wharf last week.



His departure comes shortly after the Sunday Mirror lost its editor

Tessa Hilton, when Bridget Rowe became managing director of The People

and the Sunday Mirror.



Under chief executive David Montgomery, the Mirror Group has become a

robust business. Last year, it reported a trading profit of pounds

116.6m on turnover of pounds 512m. But the impressive figures do not

disguise the fact that, despite vigorous editorial and marketing

initiatives, it cannot halt the slide in its newspaper sales.



ABC figures for the four months to April 1996 show that The Independent

saw a drop of 5.5% while the Daily Mirror fell by 3.9%, and The

Independent on Sunday saw a 2.4% fall in circulation.



Consumer passions



Kirchner’s background was FMCG, and he was confident that this

experience would benefit the Mirror group. Before joining in November as

brand development director, he was marketing director at tobacco firm

Rothmans.



He dreamt up the video promotion run in the Independent newspapers in

March, which offered readers videos of top Hollywood films for just

pounds 3.



But The Independent’s sales during the Jan-April 1996 period fell by 2%

and the promotion raised eyebrows among media buyers who felt that it

was a tabloid-style marketing push.



With Kirchner’s exit, the question of his successor remains undecided.

So what will the Mirror’s new marketer have to achieve?



The Independent and Mirror brands are intrinsically strong, according to

media buyers, and though sales continue to fall, the rate of has slowed.

Now, the Mirror Group must start adding to its circulation, which means

looking beyond a quick-fix approach.



The Independent’s readership profile of ABC1s should whet the appetites

of media planners, but its circulation figures are less attractive.

Figures for April show an average daily circulation of 276,029, compared

with 1,033,566 for The Daily Telegraph.



Nick Fullagar, spokesman for the Mirror Group, remains bullish about The

Independent’s marketing. He cites a 14% rise in sales in the two weeks

following the video promotion. He also points to the launch of the Daily

Mirror scratchcard last year as the first of its kind, which has been

imitated by rivals.



But media planners are wary of putting The Independent on their

schedules. Phil Danter, planning director for Mediastar says: ‘They

suffer from not having enough critical mass from a media planning point

of view. It’s by far the easiest title to leave off relative to other

titles.’ He stresses that these problems are not shared by the tabloid

titles, which are ‘nearing the 2.5m mark again, and seem to have seen

off the effect of News International’s promotions’.



Fighting chances



Danter says the Mirror Group could learn some lessons about marketing.

He cites the success of News International’s ‘Dear Deidre’ campaign run

in the trade press, in which a suicidal Mirror ad sales man tells of his

problems.



Bill Kinlay, media director of Ogilvy & Mather’s The Network, also sees

The Independent as a good brand. ‘We would like to see a strong

Independent. The foundations are there to build on it, but it needs a

big editorial change.’ As for the Mirror, Kinlay says its marketing

tends to ‘follow rather than lead News International’.



The Mirror Group’s deputy managing director, Roger Eastoe, who

negotiated turning the Mirror blue for Pepsi, has stepped in temporarily

to head up marketing.



The word is out that a newspaper man is being sought, in the form of

Andy Kitching, formerly at News International, and now vice-president of

marketing at New York Daily News. An industry source says: ‘If the

Mirror is to take the Sun on head to head, to get Kitching who knows how

the Sun works, would be quite a bonus for them.’



------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mirror Group titles average circulation figures

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                              May-    Nov ’95-     %

                           Oct ’95    Apr ’96   change

Daily Mirror               2,575.9    2,490.6    -3.3

The Independent              297.0      284.9    -4.1

Daily Record                 749.1      738.5    -1.4

The People                 2,079.9    2,059.8    -1.0

Sunday Mirror              2,596.6    2,438.2    -6.1

Independent on Sunday        331.8      311.9    -6.0

Source: ABC

------------------------------------------------------------------------



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