PERSPECTIVE: If the UK papers can be this good, why is it that the ads can't?

In any real sense there is only one story that matters this week: the Gulf war. And of course it is the nature of business journalism to relate seismic global events back to our own little industries. So this week we've tracked the effects of the conflict on agencies, advertisers and media owners.

Some readers may feel uncomfortable that the advertising industry should in any way be counted among the casualties of war, particularly when the main effects are being felt by media owners, who are never likely to elicit much sympathy. After all, while ITV is being stung by advertisers pulling their campaigns because of the war coverage, this is also the week that shareholders in Carlton and Granada have rebelled over eye-wateringly generous executive pay deals.

For media owners, though, the war has meant a chance to raise their editorial game and draw in new readers and viewers. Over the past week, newspapers in particular have proven their craft in world-class reporting. The elusive veracity of war has been picked over by the journalists themselves, caught up in a cloud of confusion and propaganda, but the press' power in delivering quality and depth of information is beyond question.

Pertinently, this is also the week when the great and the reasonably good of advertising and print gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Campaign's Press Awards, and the Newspaper Marketing Agency got motoring with a study into newspaper advertising creativity. Because, when newspapers can be this good, why is it that newspaper ads are generally so bad? As the chairman of our awards, Robin Wight, says in this week's awards supplement, "too many of the entries betrayed the second-class citizenship that press advertising seems to have earned".

Take a look at the creative work that is showcased in these voraciously read and terrifically, passionately written newspapers this week. Yes, some advertisers have withdrawn their ads, but even so, it's no wonder the NMA is finding that almost 80 per cent of advertisers believe good press ads can really stand out in the newspaper environment ... when the vast majority of ads are so awful, even a half-good one will stand out.

Quite why there is this disconnect between this sort of quality editorial environment (even the tabloids offer quality to their readers, and certainly a valuable reader/read relationship for advertisers to piggyback) and quality advertising is not easy to fathom. Newspapers are still a little hit-and-miss on colour and print quality, but that's no barrier to a great creative idea. And there are filing cabinets full of research to prove newspapers' effectiveness for advertisers. Are creatives simply uninspired by the newspaper medium? If so, there is no better time for the NMA to be making its case. Newspapers have never looked so good.

- Caroline Marshall is on maternity leave.

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