CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/METRO - Metro's campaign is vital to its national expansion strategy

It is hard to decide which is the bolder aspect of the new multi-million-pound campaign for Metro. Is it more surprising that a media owner should choose to develop a national TV and cinema drive aimed at advertisers, or that it should consider such a large-scale trade campaign for, of all things, a free morning newspaper?

It is hard to decide which is the bolder aspect of the new multi-million-pound campaign for Metro. Is it more surprising that a media owner should choose to develop a national TV and cinema drive aimed at advertisers, or that it should consider such a large-scale trade campaign for, of all things, a free morning newspaper?

Certainly, trade ads have made their way into the uncharted territories of mass consumer media before now. Earlier this year, OMD UK ran a spot flagging the importance of media strategy in the midst of Channel 4's programme on the 'greatest ads of all time'.

But that work pretty much defined the limits for a direct business-to-business appeal in the mass market - event-specific, minutely targeted and with no long-term roll out.

The likelihood of a free publication breaking out of this trade marketing mould would have appeared laughable a few years ago. Conventional marketing wisdom states quite clearly that if you don't buy it, you don't read the ads.

There would have seemed very little chance of a trade campaign convincing advertisers otherwise. Certainly not enough chance to justify a spend that Mike Anderson, Metro's managing director, admits is 'a few million pounds'.

But Metro, as London now knows, is no ordinary free paper. Within its first 18 months, national circulation has rocketed to 800,000. Versions of the title are now available in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh, with Naked, the New PHD offshoot, appointed to plan a separate media strategy for brand extensions.

This week's 40-second ad from BANC seems to tap into the 'onwards and upwards' mood. 'Our brief was that we were dealing with a phenomenon,' Robert Bean, the chairman of BANC, says. 'Metro has drawn in loads of newspaper readers who didn't bother before.'

The aim is to pursue advertisers through a consumer-style ad, grabbing their attention when they least expect it and raising the stature of the Metro brand.

'Our media agency, MediaVest, has been drawing up a media strategy based on a very simple premise,' Anderson says.

'The question is, what media does a 29-year-old account planner consume? It's a simple target that involves complex delivery,' he adds.

However, one gets the definite impression that there could be more to Anderson's decision to run this campaign on a national scale, rather than just targeting London's marketing community.

The inevitable rise in Metro's profile will reopen the debate on just what effect the title's expansion will have on national newspapers. Anderson insists that his title is a 'portal to print' that does not cannibalise the paid-for press.

However, circulation for the Daily Mail, its sister title, has slowed since the arrival of Metro in London. What will be the effect on the dailies when Metro arrives elsewhere, following a TV campaign?

For Bean, Metro's drive is natural behaviour for a product with momentum. 'Most great brands are seen to be performing beyond their comfort zone,' he says. 'If the Metro phenomenon is shining in everyone's eyes, it will be easier to drop new products in later.'



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