When did you last hear anyone talking about a press ad? If you
weren’t at the Campaign Press Awards last week, the chances are it’s
been a while.
Press work is often viewed as the dull older sister of television and
poster advertising. Detractors say that it has minimal impact on
consumers and has failed to play a valuable role in advertising’s key
contribution to client business - the art of brand building.
So can press ads be dismissed as mere coupon vehicles? Are they just an
afterthought - a back-up to the real campaign - or are they all posters
that have conveniently been shrunk-to-fit? Do creatives think carefully
about the medium or are their minds always wandering towards the more
public glory of television and poster work?
At the Campaign Press Awards, BMP DDB’s Volkswagen work was a popular
and convincing winner. Jay Pond-Jones, the creative director of Bates
Dorland, says: ’I love the VW stuff. It’s all there at a glance and I
can turn the page having enjoyed it and smiled. You get your reward in a
Although it forms part of an on-going campaign, the work stands up on
its own and the ’surprisingly ordinary prices’ idea is big enough to
allow for a host of executions. It also works better in press than on
posters because the consumer has to grab a second look at the ad to get
to the message fully.
Many of the best press campaigns require a second glance. Bartle Bogle
Hegarty built the Boddingtons brand around the ’cream of Manchester’
press campaign and - in the style of the best poster campaigns - its
Wallis ’dress to kill’ work brought the high-street retailer more
attention than the budget would normally have supplied on its own.
Bruce Crouch, the agency’s executive creative director, says: ’You can
still have an impact with press - it’s powerful when it’s used
There were only three Wallis ads, from a small budget, but the campaign
made a big difference for the client.’
Although the Wallis campaign also appeared on a small number of
cross-track posters, Crouch still thinks it worked best in press: ’You
can see the nuances of the expressions and you get the tongue-in-cheek
nature of it.’
Referring to his Boddingtons campaign, Crouch adds: ’You can have a real
presence in press and it distils the thought because you can’t cheat on
The strongest argument for press advertising is the precise targeting it
allows. Newspaper readers are more easily categorised than television
viewers and every magazine purchase ties down the consumer to a
particular set of interests and values as well as an age group and
A lot of press advertising is devised as a means for consumers to
respond to a client’s principal branding work on TV or posters. Cars in
particular fit into this category, although there are exceptions like
Audi, again from BBH.
Many magazine ads are tailored to fit in with their surroundings.
Although this may lessen the impact, it can help a brand to fit
seamlessly into the consciousness of its target audience. As Pond-Jones
points out: ’Most magazines are laid out in such a way that you don’t
need to read them.
They are broken down into bite-size bits so that you come away thinking
you’ve read them when you’ve just seen the pictures and headlines.’
If people don’t bother to read magazines that they have actively
purchased, how likely are they to scrutinise the ads within them? Press
ads need to be almost as immediate as their counterparts on posters, and
there is no reason why one execution shouldn’t work just as well in both
’Posters often make good press ads,’ says Nick Hastings, the creative
director of DMB&B. Like most of his peers, he believes consumers no
longer have the time to appreciate long copy, but he contends: ’You
couldn’t form a solid case to say that press ads don’t have an impact.
The targeting is tighter than TV and, over time, press can have a huge
Consumers may not linger on them, but press ads do give advertisers a
split second longer to reach their audience. ’In press you’re looking
for something more involving,’ Hastings says. ’Posters can’t intrigue
people because they have to be very wham-bam.’
Billy Mawhinney, the creative director of Faulds Advertising and one of
the judges of the 1999 Campaign Press Awards, thinks a press ad should
take its audience through three stages: ’First they need to be attracted
by the ad. Then they have to be involved by it and finally there should
be something there that clinches the deal.’
Illustration can only be explored fully in a press execution. The
subtleties of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe’s ’rasta’ ad for Virgin
Atlantic are lost on a poster. The same can be said of BMP’s ’protected
species’ work or Lowe Howard-Spink’s Vauxhall fleet campaign.
Without exception, the creative community came out in defence of the
press advertising genre. Although its traditional tool, long copy, is
now mostly the province of charity advertising, the medium still offers
the opportunity to use subtlety and to enter into debate with its
audience that is not always possible with other media.