Media: Behind the hype - Advertisers continue to put faith in takeover deals

While hijack deals are not a novel ideal, they still make an impact, Jeremy Lee says.

Hype rarely seems so overdone as when media owners refer to the buying of all the ad space in one particular issue as a "hijack".

This sounds exciting - conjuring up images of advertiser and agency going in all guns blazing, tying up the publication's ad director and setting its own ads up on the printing presses free of charge.

But perhaps the use of "hijack" masks the fact that there's nothing new about advertisers buying up all the space in a particular newspaper. One of the earliest examples was Microsoft buying every available space in The Times for the launch of Windows 95.

Some newspapers are more receptive to giving up their ad space than others and last week, nine years after the deal in The Times, the Evening Standard agreed to sell all of its ad sites, other than the classifieds and those on the City pages, to Asda.

The campaign, of which the Evening Standard deal was just a component, had two goals: first, showcasing Asda's "extra special" food, clothing and home ranges; second, increasing the number of customers coming into its stores.

Richard Sexton, the account director on Asda at Carat, says: "It was a new strategy - Asda has got a strong awareness in the north but not so much in the south and the Evening Standard provided the ideal vehicle to target commuters."

Part of the reason the Evening Standard had resisted selling all its ad space is concern by its publisher, Associated Newspapers, that such a deal might jeopardise its relationship with its readers.

Traditionally, deals that take over all of a newspaper's ad sites have been done as part of a launch campaign - for instance, Virgin Mobile took all the space in Metro for its launch.

However, Adrian Pike, the press director at Starcom Motive, says these deals go beyond this. In October last year, his agency bought every ad space in Metro as part of Barclays' ongoing "fluent in finance" campaign.

"By taking over all the ad sites, you can make a statement of intent and can get across multiple messages," he says.

Logistically, the deals are quite complex to put together and close co-operation with the client's creative agency is key. "A deal such as this requires greater collaboration with the creative agency than any other because you have to ensure creative is suitable for each section the ad appears in," Sexton says.

Pike worked closely with Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Barclays' creative agency, throughout the six-week deal negotiation process in order to ensure each individual creative execution was relevant to the section in which it would appear.

The lead-time for the agencies is quite significant too, usually requiring planning well in advance. The process can take several months to reach fruition because all ad spaces have to be available. This means working closely with the editorial as well as the commercial department of the paper.

As for pricing, Sexton says this is quite straightforward. "It is like any other negotiation - you start with the accumulated media value and then go from there," he says. And the good news for both the agency and the media owner is that the money does not usually come from the client's press budget but tends to be incremental cash.

There is little doubt that such "hijack" deals still manage to make an impact and bring additional revenue to the market but, equally importantly, they also push press advertising higher up advertisers' agendas.

"I think that anyone who tries to make a statement in such a way is a really good user of papers - it gets clients thinking about press advertising in advance, rather than just using it in the usual reactionary way," Pike says.

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