Cast your mind back to January 2004. It was raining. Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out was blasting from the radio, fears were mounting that Athens would not be ready in time for the summer Olympics and a new era for British magazines was heralded with the strapline: "Women! Don't expect any help on a Thursday."
It may not have been Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s most celebrated work but, when released ten years ago to promote IPC Media’s first weekly men’s magazine, Nuts, the campaign made its mark.
The launch was IPC’s first major assault on our newsstands since being acquired by the merged US behemoth AOL Time Warner in 2001 – and the stakes were high. The advertising campaign formed part of an £8 million push in the press and on television, and was widely credited for helping Nuts to outsell its arch-rival, Zoo, published by Emap (now Bauer Media). Nuts maintained its dominant position over Zoo for the next ten years.
Attempts to turn Nuts' demise into a victory for anything other than online porn are completely misguided
The backlash was immediate. "Trashy, insipid, sexist and plain tiresome," came the cry, but Nuts and Zoo both flew off the newsstands. Initial sales of 60,000 soon multiplied to beyond 200,000 in the first six months.
The weeklies had an immediate impact on men’s monthlies. FHM, the undisputed leader of the pack at the time, reported a 3.5 per cent drop in circulation by the second half of the year, but continued to post an impressive monthly figure of 580,027. Maxim, Loaded and Front proved to be less resilient. Nuts went on to pass 300,000 weekly sales in 2005.
It was only ten years ago, but it feels like a lifetime. To say the media landscape has moved on a bit since then fails to truly capture the transformation. AOL Time Warner itself now has the dubious honour of being the "biggest mistake in corporate history".
Last week’s announced closure of Nuts, which took just two sentences, has been a long time coming. Staff are in no doubt that the £1.95, 76-page title will not form part of IPC’s portfolio past April. There is no news from Zoo, despite it now selling fewer than 30,000 copies per week. Frustratingly beaten to market by Nuts, it looks as though the title has been robbed of an honourable exit too.
But let’s be clear. Attempts to turn Nuts’ demise into a victory for anything other than online porn are completely misguided. Rest assured, Lucy Pinder will rise again.
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