Zimmerman Gets an Unusual Assignment From a Publisher

Growing readership for Men's Fitness and Star, without ads

A funny thing arose out of conversations between Zimmerman Advertising founder Jordan Zimmerman and American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker: The ad agency got an assignment that doesn't involve advertising.

Rather, through research, data analysis and strategic advice, Zimmerman will try to expand online and print audiences for AMI's entertainment and health titles, including Star, OK!, Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, and Flex.

The assignment is new and reflects the demands on all publishers these days to quantify and increase their value to advertisers. Accordingly, Zimmerman will examine brand partnerships, such as a National Basketball Association All-Star Game event that Men's Fitness and Macy's co-sponsored two weeks ago in New York. The shop will ask questions such as, how could this become a bigger, annual event?

Similarly, Men's Fitness and nearly a dozen brands sponsor the Ultimate Athlete Games in New York and Chicago. Could it expand to other cities and increase revenue for AMI? That's where data analysis will be key.

The hire is unusual for AMI, as the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company creates its own ads and typically uses agencies on project basis to execute events. What's more, nearly all of its ads appear in its own magazines and on its own websites. So, Kantar Media's estimate of the company's annual media spending—$32 million in 2013, for example—reflects the fact that AMI doesn't actually purchase media space.

Another wrinkle? Zimmerman's assignment came without a classic pitch against other shops. Instead, it was an outgrowth of meetings between Zimmerman leaders and Pecker, and ultimately with AMI editors.

In a statement, Pecker said he wanted an agency that "reflects the aggressive growth strategy of AMI, has a proven track record of driving growth in multiple sectors and is a true strategic partner." Zimmerman, in turn, cited AMI's "excellent brands and incredible untapped potential." Whether that potential can be realized should be apparent this time next year, if not sooner.