WPP Group, formerly the globe’s largest advertising group until supplanted by Interpublic earlier this year [WAMN: 19-Mar-01], has entered into a 50/50 joint venture with US magazine publishing group Forbes.

The venture, branded Custom Media Group with offices in Boston and New York, will offer editorial, design, production, distribution and other services for clients worldwide, supplementing their marketing campaigns with magazines, newsletters and annual reports. It will also create and manage websites whose content is under clients’ editorial control.

Says WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell: “Custom publications [or ‘contract publications’, as they are known in the UK] ought to be considered a halfway house between editorial content and advertising.”

“The point is to build a relationship over time with the consumer and this is just one of the weapons in the arsenal,” Sorrell continued. “These publications are individually tailored and can be segmented and targeted to different audiences. And it's an area where there's considerable opportunity to communicate with and develop relationships with clients."

Stateside, the custom publishing market has an annual value estimated between $1 billion to $1.5 billion. But despite this, says Forbes Magazine Group president Jim Berrien: “In the United States [it] is kind of a secret. This partnership gives us access to more high-level strategic discussions that will enable us to better put custom publishing into the marketing mix.”

WPP is not alone among agencies exploiting the commercial potential of custom publishing. Two Interpublic divisions – Campbell-Ewald Advertising and the McCann-Erickson World Group – jointly run The Publishing Agency.

News source: New York Times