CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/PRESS ADVERTISING - Creatives ignore the power of press at their peril - Press ads offer a lot more than just support for other media. Emma Hall reports

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.

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 technique.’

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

income bracket.

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.


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