ANALYSIS: EDITOR’S COMMENT: Papers must unite ad branding with promotional work

Agencies award having a newspaper on their roster a significance most of the papers haven’t merited for years. Once it was prestigious, and it guaranteed serious income. Now prestige is debatable, and the biggest-spending paper last year was the Times at pounds 6.76 million (ACN Meal).

Agencies award having a newspaper on their roster a significance

most of the papers haven’t merited for years. Once it was prestigious,

and it guaranteed serious income. Now prestige is debatable, and the

biggest-spending paper last year was the Times at pounds 6.76 million

(ACN Meal).



The Express, supposedly a pounds 10 million account when it moved to

Lowe Howard-Spink last year, actually spent pounds 3.46 million. This

figure, which now includes the Sunday edition, is considerably less than

its tabloid rivals. Most will have gone on promoting the daily sports

section, a genuinely improved product, but one that alienates half the

potential readership. The rest will have gone on promotions. A promised

branding campaign failed to materialise. Was anyone surprised?



Agencies always approach newspapers in the same way, suggesting a major

branding campaign. They hope to create a sexy campaign with creative

licence. Newspaper marketing departments’ view of the world is

inextricably bound with the next set of ABCs. You only have to look at

the bulks game.



To be honest, I don’t believe anyone any more. If you’re sad enough to

work it out - from copies of the Express at the airport to Saturday

Guardians in Habitat - you may never have to hand over cash for a paper

again.



Inevitably, agency relationships with newspaper clients get off on the

wrong foot. With the Express sliding towards the million mark and the

Mirror in danger from the Mail, neither is going to rest all their hopes

on a long-term branding campaign. I’m not saying they’re right or wrong,

they just won’t. Short-term business pressures will not allow them to

even if they so desired.



Those pressures can translate into the work. Witness the tugging in

opposite directions that went on over the Independent on Sunday’s

blockbuster spot. But the paper only spent pounds 553,000 on advertising

last year. The ad’s production budget was probably more than that.



The exception, as ever, is Murdoch. In addition to the Times and the

Sunday Times (which spent pounds 3.5 million last year compared with the

Sunday Telegraph’s pounds 550,000), he has now launched a Sun branding

campaign. The trick will be to develop the work so it can incorporate

future promotional activity seamlessly.



The Mail, Mail on Sunday and the Guardian have done this for years. The

’changing’ Times idea appears to have the same legs. We wish Leo Burnett

the same good fortune with the Express. But, the questions it must ask

its new clients are: do they have the stomachs and pockets to maintain

the level of marketing spend necessary, and do they have the confidence

to maintain a consistent message, next ABCs notwithstanding?



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