Media Forum: Can NMA's drive lift gloom?

Will the trade body's marketing make a difference, Alasdair Reid asks.

It's at times like this that a trade marketing body can really start earning its corn. When times are good, it's all very well telling people you're promoting the interests of the medium you represent.

And it's even more satisfying, presumably, when the times are bad but your sector has managed to escape the worst. But it's when it's your job to install a silver lining in the biggest, darkest cloud in living memory that you get a meaningful opportunity to prove your worth.

Last week, the Newspaper Marketing Agency launched a campaign designed to lift morale in the newspaper medium by reminding us all that, actually, the national newspaper sector has been increasing its share of the display market in a number of categories, such as retail and financial services (visit campaignlive.co.uk/the work to take a look at them).

Maureen Duffy, the chief executive of the NMA, says: "The picture that is too often painted of the current situation in national newspaper advertising is unremittingly gloomy. Nielsen Media Research ad revenue data proves that national newspapers have outperformed the market, where they have invested in building and marketing a business case for advertisers."

And, in drawing attention to the power of the medium, there's always a chance that planners and buyers may not just take note but act with renewed generosity.

Central to the new campaign will be six ads created by McCann Erickson that will run in the newspapers of NMA member companies (News International, Telegraph Media Group, Independent News & Media, Associated Newspapers and Guardian News & Media) and there will be related promotional activity.

Will it work? Perhaps, Alison Brolls, the head of marketing planning, global marketing services at Nokia, responds - but she says her real worry is for the longer-term future of the sector in view of the structural challenges it faces.

She says: "It's a tough time for all media sectors right now - but it's an even tougher time for advertisers. They're being squeezed to deliver better results with reduced budgets, against a backdrop of a huge proliferation of advertiser media choice, and fundamental changes in media consumption habits.

"So the NMA has got it absolutely right to pick up on and push home the unique aspects of what newspapers have to offer. At least one of its messages - the ability of national press to deliver mass reach within 24 hours, at competitive costs - is undeniably a powerful sales story for many advertiser categories."

Dominic Williams, Carat's press director, agrees with much of that. He adds: "I'm a huge supporter of the NMA. I like this current campaign. To me it's bang on brief. You can't underestimate the importance of the work the NMA has been doing in terms of public relations and raising awareness."

But that's not exactly how Alan Brydon, the head of press at MPG, sees things. He states: "It is, of course, admirable that an effort - any effort - is being made to raise the profile of the medium. But I think that in these days of very impressive, highly intelligent and massively resourced agencies, it seems somewhat naive and overly optimistic to hope that it will lead to any change.

"Agencies and their clients think incredibly carefully about how every pound is spent, and if spend isn't going into newspapers, then that's because decisions have been taken for reasons well beyond anything an ad will change. And isn't there an irony in using newspaper ads to persuade people who aren't using newspapers to do so?"

Harsh, Steve Goodman, the managing director of print trading at Group M, says. "Some of the messages look strong and make a good case. The campaign will hopefully stop people in their tracks. It seems to be placed across many titles too, so it feels as if it will achieve broad coverage. There's every chance that important people at the client end will see this - and it will hopefully shift their perspective."

- Got a view? E-mail us at campaign@haymarket.com

MAYBE - Alison Brolls, head of marketing planning, global marketing services, Nokia

"If the industry wants to stem share decline, it needs to focus on the strengths it has now, but also on what else it can offer advertisers in the future, versus the plethora of other options."

(Otherwise), the recession won't end without taking a few more newspaper casualties with it."the plethora of other options. (Otherwise), the recession won't end without taking a few more newspaper casualties with it."

YES - Dominic Williams, press director, Carat

"As a trade body, the NMA is second to none. As well as ad campaigns, it produces regular case studies on important sectors like finance and retail. I believe it all helps drive business into the medium."

NO - Alan Brydon, head of press, MPG

"Do we think there is anyone that has been using non-newspaper media, or not advertising at all, who is now going to go'Doh!' and realise they'd forgotten to consider newspapers?"

YES - Steve Goodman, managing director, print trading, Group M

"It's important to remind people what the medium can do. We all want print to succeed so it's positive to see a strong campaign making clear points - and for me, that's what this does. There's every chance it will have an impact on clients and strategic planners too."

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