Media: Behind the hype - Standard offers blank canvas to agency creatives

The initiative aims to make creatives think again about print, Pippa Considine says.

It all sounds very la-di-da for a newspaper. Associated Newspapers is offering a "creative canvas" to be appreciated by its readers as they unwind during their EST (Evening Standard Time).

What it boils down to is a free deal to advertisers, so that if they come up with a good creative idea it can run (as a one-off) in the Standard, gratis. Meanwhile, the Standard sales team gets the ear of a less obvious agency influence: the creative director.

The first agency to take advantage was Isobel, which created a spread for its responsibletravel. com client that ran last week.

It's a well-timed initiative from the creative point of view, given the poor quality of much newspaper advertising and the debate on the lost art of writing long copy.

Creative Canvas has been well received by the ad community, which welcomes the chance to do some good work, especially when the client isn't having to pay. It's also timely, given the need for the Standard to pull a rabbit out of a hat. After a 5 per cent year-on-year decline in circulation, it stands out in Associated's portfolio for the wrong reasons.

Various other improvements at the newspaper are underway, but while Creative Canvas has nothing to do with boosting circulation, it's unlikely to have been launched as an entirely altruistic gesture.

Mike Anderson, the Standard's managing director, has pulled this kind of stunt before. During his time as the managing director of Associated's Metro (where he is still on the board), he backed an ad campaign that ran in the quality press, called "out of sight, out of mind". This drew attention to the need to advertise, even during recessionary times.

Anderson also plugged "the Metro moment". "We have a unique relationship with commuters at the beginning of the day when their minds are uncluttered," he said, back in 2000.

Now the Standard is concentrating on calmer moments towards the end of the day. Alan Brydon, the Standard advertising director, says: "Evening commuters are more relaxed. Their minds are less cluttered. We know we speak to people at a particular time of day, and 'Evening Standard Time' is a specific opportunity."

Anderson says Creative Canvas has gone down a storm with agency creative directors, including John Hegarty, the chairman and worldwide creative director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and Peter Souter, the Abbott Media Vickers BBDO executive creative director.

Media agencies also back the move. Steve Goodman, the group press director at MediaCom, says: "Not enough has been done in recent years to target creatives, trying to get them more interested in press. Anything that encourages that has to be a good thing."

There is a queue of takers for the scheme. As well as Isobel, Team Saatchi has created work for the Sporting Chance Appeal and M&C Saatchi for The Dyslexia Appeal. The Standard, which is planning an exhibition of featured ads later this year, will hope it bolsters revenues as well as its image.


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