Esquire steps out of GQ's shadow

When Alex Bilmes told one PR professional he had landed the job as the new editor of men's magazine Esquire, her reply was: 'Really? But you're a dick.'

Refresh: Return to witty copy
Refresh: Return to witty copy

The candid response, confessed in Bilmes' inaugural editor's letter, hints at the humour readers can expect from Esquire's new boss.

'Men's magazines ought to be funny. British men pride themselves on their sense of humour,' he says.

Bilmes, who was formerly features editor at rival title GQ, joined Esquire in January and his first issue as editor was published this month, complete with an 'extreme makeover'.

The media have been eager to stir up the fighting talk with his ex-employer, where he worked for more than ten years. When The Guardian recently asked GQ editor Dylan Jones what he thought his former features editor would do with Esquire, he said: 'I'm not sure, but having seen his first issue you can definitely tell where he's worked for the past ten years.'

Mark Pinsent, head of digital at Shine Communications, suggests Esquire's redesign could be considered a step back for the title. 'For a magazine presenting a new, fresh approach, having a picture on the cover of Kelly Brook in a bikini licking her lips was either an ironic nod to lads' mags of the noughties, or poorly judged.'

But for Bilmes the new-look Esquire is a return to the two things for which men's magazines are supposed to stand - providing style advice and substantial reading - all of which Bilmes says is 'positive, witty, mainstream, yet still intelligent'.

James Hoyle, associate director at Seventy Seven PR, says he would 'be hard pressed to slate the new magazine'. He adds: 'The contributors have always been impressive and let's hope they are put to good use.'

Esquire's new look comes complete with several new sections, a new curvier logo and a team of high-profile contributors, including the Sunday Times and Vanity Fair critic (and former GQ writer) AA Gill and Times columnist and BBC presenter, Giles Coren.

PROs have two obvious avenues for approaching the title: fashion and entertainment. While Bilmes already boasts a list of strong contacts in PR with whom he often works, he says the editorial team is always open to suggestions.

Pinsent says the style section in particular presents good opportunities for PROs. Hoyle agrees that opportunities come 'thick and fast' in the mag and highlights lifestyle, design and fashion as areas for potential hits.

PROs might want to start taking notes on Bilmes' personal tastes.

'The editor's tastes are always going to be reflected in a magazine,' he explains. That is where he claims the title will differ from its rivals: 'GQ is Dylan's magazine and it reflects his tastes and interests. And Esquire reflects my interests.'

Price: £4.25
Frequency: Monthly
Publisher: National Magazine Company
Circulation: 59,382 (ABCs July-Dec 2010)
Editor: Alex Bilmes
Food editor: Tom Parker Bowles
Arts editor: Miranda Collinge
Tel: 020 7439 5000

A MINUTE WITH ... Alex Bilmes, editor, Esquire

- Describe your readers

British men. I don't have a fixed idea of who they are. I just want to reach men: intelligent, stylish men, from their early twenties right up to late middle age. I don't really believe in trying to work out a specific demographic.

- How does Esquire differ from its rivals?

I think all good magazines are collaborative.

So it's the result of everyone that works on it. But they're also the product of one person's vision. The editor's tastes and the editor's interests are always going to be reflected in a magazine. I think it's a good thing for a magazine to reflect its editor. For example, the writers that we've selected reflect my taste of writing.

- What advice do you have for PROs?

We obviously have two main areas of interest where we work with PR professionals. They are fashion and entertainment, including pop music, celebrity, art, film and culture. In terms of approaching Esquire, the drawbridge is down, so we're always open to suggestions.

- What should PROs not do?

Suggesting the whole story, with the spin and the writer and everything in place, always annoys me. Don't email me saying: 'Dear Alex, I think this would be great for GQ.' Wrong magazine.

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