Fresh from boosting the cover price of Take 5 by
10c, ACP, the magazine arm of PBL has been embarrassed by attempts to play
cheapskate and cut magazine subscribers out of promotions.
Last week Take 5 had a promotion
with a keyring attached to each magazine with a number on the back of it that
buyers could win a share of the $70k in cash on offer. There were a lot of
prizes.
Trouble is the
keyring didn’t go out to subscribers. Only retail
buyers were offered the chance to win and that meant all of the subscribers
could not enter the competition. Here’s the Take 5
website
at ACP.

It’s not the first time this has
been done by ACP. There was a directive last year from CEO, John Alexander that
set out why subscribers were excluded. Read this story from Crikey about the
tight-fisted approach of ACP – ACP’s stingy subscription offers.

The whole point of Alexander’s
policy was that subscribers were not to receive the benefit of any magazine
promotions that were “paper based” that is, were included in the magazines sold
through retail channels.

So people were free to put up their
hard earned cash to subscribe to ACP magazines (such as the recent campaign by
The Bulletin to subscribe for $99 a year), but they were not to get any of the
freebies available to people who paid full price at retail
level.

Now this policy is not disclosed
anywhere in subscription forms or applications by ACP, so there are Trade
Practice problems here. Anyone determined enough to press the point would able
to drive ACP mad and drop the policy.

ACP tells subscribers that because
they bought their magazines at below the retail cost, this was their
advantage. Naturally they were not happy and one particular promotion for ‘Shop
Til You Drop’ and another for Dolly magazine brought complaints into the
Network Services call centre at ACP, as did the latest Take 5
non-offer.

After lifting the price, ACP
felt that it had to keep retail sales up in the event of buyer resistance
to the higher price. That would have added a gross $20K a week in extra sales
revenue, or more than $1 million a year, so the $70K in cash promotion was a
cheap play for the Packer magazine empire, spending $70,000 or so to defend a $1
million boost to revenues and the bonuses of various people at ACP, not to
mention the $25 million man himself, John Alexander.

But the volume of
complaints was such that ACP had to buckle and reverse its hardline
attitude. On Monday of this week Take 5 subscribers received this from ACP and
the magazine:

Production problems seem to be a
convenient excuse at ACP. They were to blame for the earings offer on “Shop Til
You Drop” last April being included on the retail copies only and not
subscription copies. Strange how those “production problems” can discriminate
quite accurately between retail and subscriber copies.

It’s chillingly accurate in fact.
I know of three subscribers who received the above letter and the key ring this
week, but none of their copies had them stuck to the cover in plastic bags.

Only the retail copies.

So why subscribe when you get
treated like this? It’s amazing what almost 50 per cent of the magazine market
can mean in contempt for subscribers and other
customers.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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