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Why Australian GQ sucks (and what it can do to fix itself – Part 1) May 15, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing, work/life.
Tags: , , , ,

My favourite magazine on this planet you humans call Earth is GQ. British GQ. The writing is top notch, bringing in the UK’s best columnists, novelists, satirists and stylists and culminating each month in a snap shot of lifestyle that is accessible, aspirational and a fun bit of escapism.

Then there’s the Australian version of GQ. This is an entirely different beast. It is so unrecognisable from its English counterpart as to be a completely different publication, one of dubious origin and so sub-par I can only hope the name was stolen well in advance of antipodean plans hatched in the UK/US Conde Nast offices…alas I’m probably wrong.

One issue I remember going through with a red pen, highlighting each typo, each page layout that didn’t sit quite right. I got bored a third of the way through, scowling down at pages covered in red pen. Not being one to take a dump on someone else’s effort without offering up some advice, over the next few days I am going to offer up five ways Australian GQ can improve itself, and make me buy it again.

We’ll do the first one now, which is…

The Editor

The aesthetic and spirit of the publication begins and ends with the editor. In the British corner we have Dylan Jones, bless. Dylan is self-deprecating, articulate, passionate about more than his wardrobe and the next party he’s throwing, a published author, the kind of guy who is as comfortable getting a pint as a pinot. Or at least gives that impression – and therein lies the trick.

His Australian counter-part is Grant Pearce, oh dear. Twatty McTwat. I don’t get a sense of the editor’s personality in Australian GQ, unless the editor is in fact bland, shallow and all dollars no sense. Grant is actually Group Executive Editor at News Magazines, overseeing several titles including Australian Vogue. So, he’s clearly smart and hard working, where do we get let down?

The impression I get is he’s delivering a magazine he thinks other people would like to read, not really being interested in it himself – or simply too busy to give it its due. Dylan lives and breathes his offering, and marks every page with his stamp. Grant’s effort on the other hand seems to do its best not to offend, and in the end that means nothing really grabs you. I don’t feel anyone’s personality when I see Australian GQ, assuming that is that it isn’t put together by senior partners at Ernst & Young. Apologies to my friends who work at EY, obviously I mean other people.

So, first off, Grant, let’s see some personality. I don’t want editorials that sound like they should be in GQ, I want a magazine with its own sense of style and purpose. Show me some life, show me a sense of humour, show me a magazine that is more than the sum of its freshly-pressed, Bollinger-swilling parts. The same way you spit out the virtues of Vogue in this month’s Marketing Magazine, you should be the one driving GQ to its proper place.

By all means though, keep swilling the Bollinger. There’s got to be some perk to being GQ after all…

In the next installment: the writers.

Update: I wanted to link all five posts together for easy reference, so here they are.

  1. The Editor (you are here)
  2. The Writers
  3. The Art Direction
  4. Audience & Competitors
  5. Online


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