P&G’s new custom magazine is yellow journalism: MediaDaily News’ Michael Shields reports that Procter & Gamble is testing in the U.K. a new magazine for mothers called Mustard. (Not to be confused with this Mustard Magazine.)
We are always looking at developing new marketing tools to deepen the relationship with our consumers, and given the way that magazines engage with their readership, this is a communication channel that we are interested in testing,” said Judith Russell, a P&G spokesperson. While the company declined to say whether the magazine is part of a larger push into the consumer publishing business, Russell confirmed that there are currently no plans to launch this magazine in the United States. “We are taking one step at a time,” she said.
Mustard will be delivered to some consumers at home, with 1 million additional copies being distributed via the Saturday Express starting May 29th. Print media mavens at some non-P&G shops say they are intrigued by the move, and think it may be a smart move. “My instinct is, a lot of branded publications have been slightly slanted, but P&G stands for a lot of good things,” noted Steve Greenberger, senior vice president-director of print media at Zenith Media. “If it has usable information that helps make people’s lives better, I think it’s okay.”
Greenberger added that P&G’s considerable research strength in the United States might make the company particularly well-suited to launch a U.S.-targeted magazine. “The question is how overly blatant it is,” he said. “We have to wait and see what it looks like.” Since little is known about Mustard, at this point any judgment may be premature, and several agency executives declined to comment.
The new book may be no different than run-of-the-mill custom publishing, which has been a common practice by marketers for years. “This is nothing new,” said Mike McHale, senior vice president-group media director at Optimedia. “There are lots of brands that have custom magazines.” It’s also not unheard of for brands to attempt to launch “objective” magazines. After tobacco manufacturers began withdrawing ad dollars from many consumer magazines a few years ago to avoid targeting younger readers, Phillip Morris began to publish lifestyle magazine Unlimited in conjunction with Hachette Filipacchi. In addition to Phillip Morris brands, Unlimited has featured ads from major brands such as Altoids and Maxwell House.
Of course, P&G has been in the original content business for quite some time. The company is credited with inventing the soap opera back in the early days of radio and television. Procter & Gamble Productions, Inc. currently produces “Guiding Light,” and once produced longtime soap “Another World.”
I apologize for the long quote, but I needed to do so in order to commend Michael Shields for anticipating every nit-pick I would have made about his story had he not been so diligent in providing context for this news. Because of his stellar reporting, I will forgive his minor run-of-the-mill jab.