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
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
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?