Mr Punch is back to amuse the chattering classes after four years on the
skids, but Jock Wilson, director of Propeller Marketing Communications,
wonders if it is a happy resurrection
Punch, previously a (sometimes) satirical magazine for the middle
classes, has made a comeback. This time it wearing the new guise of a
well-written humorous magazine for the thinking and chattering classes.
To add weight to its desire to reach up-scale Brits the magazine is
backed by their favourite shop owner, Mr Al-Fayed of Harrods.
The tricky job was to create awareness for the relaunch after a gap of
four years, while getting over the point that the magazine had changed
from supposedly satirical humour to become a well-written, newsy,
gossipy magazine illustrated by the best artists, according to editor
Peter McKay. So, goodbye dentists’ waiting rooms and hello coffee tables
of the smart set. So how did Mr Punch’s PR advisers fare?
Well, they had a strong brand name, the backing of the UK’s most famous
retailer and a mischievous and well-connected editor. Firstly, Harrods’
splendid Georgian restaurant was available for a glittering launch party
for 1,000 of the great and good creating news and picture coverage of
the launch in the next day’s papers and a valuable ‘And finally’ slot
for News at Ten.
The magazine itself contained a newsworthy angle. In this case the cover
of the launch issue parodied the Tory’s evil-eyed New Labour New Danger
poster to good effect. The cover was used to illustrate Punch stories in
most broadsheet and mid-market tabloids, securing good branding and
potential cover recognition for potential buyers.
So far so good in terms of raising awareness, but what about dropping
the dentist’s waiting room and leaving past perceptions behind? Well, TV
and press coverage tended to lead on ‘the return of an institution’
line, with frequent mention of the dreaded waiting room. Sky even had a
dentist review the magazine from - yes, you guessed - his waiting room.
One further weakness of the campaign was that the Mr Punch character
used in both the PR and advertising campaign is, in my opinion, a
liability. Quite simply, the image is one associated with clubland’s
smoke-filled rooms rather than the haunts of the chattering classes the
And have I read it? Well, yes. As part of an integrated campaign putting
to good use Harrods’ customer data, I’m being sent the first three
issues free. Will I buy it? Well, maybe.