With the inevitability with which the seasons change, the onset of
an advertising recession is always greeted with the same time-honoured
First, the dust is blown off weighty academic studies proving the
desirability of advertising through a recession, which are then
flourished with all the significance of Moses and his tablets of stone.
Second, leading agency and media owner figures, especially the ones who
have hitherto never given the economic rationale of advertising a
moment's thought, grab every platform they can to tell us why clients
should spend, spend, spend like it's going out of style (which,
pedantically speaking, it is, otherwise they wouldn't be up in arms and
running round like headless chickens).
If you think I'm being cynical, put aside your concerns. I don't quibble
with any of this. Adland is absolutely right to do this. There is a
clear and sensible case to be made to advertisers for the desirability
of maintaining budgets. It's just that, when it comes to their own
advertising and marketing budgets, agencies and media owners rarely put
their money where their mouths are.
Of course, they have a list of excuses ("inefficient targeting", "better
ways of reaching finance directors and chief executives", "really should
be an industry initiative", blah blah blah), but unless they back their
words with actions, special pleading of this kind is hardly likely to
cut the mustard with the people who sign the cheques at the client
So it's a great pleasure to hail this week's initiative by Metro,
Associated's new kid on the block. Metro, for those who haven't seen
them, has taken a series of ads, created by Banc, in other papers,
making the case for advertising. Generously (although with half an eye
on their revenue), most other papers have accepted them. "Out of sight,
out of mind," reads the headline on one double-page spread, followed by
150 words, the gist of which is that staying visible while rivals cut
back puts advertisers in a better position when recovery comes.
Of course, this is not an entirely philanthropic gesture by Metro. As
the newest national(ish) paper, it is hardly likely to be front of
As a marginal advertising buy (relatively speaking), it has most to
While others can compensate for the fall in advertising with cover price
revenue, Metro is a freesheet. Third, since Metro is available only on
public transport, a form of travel unfamiliar to client cheque-signers ,
it lacks visibility.
But the most significant point is that, by grabbing the high ground, it
makes the paper look bigger than it is and dispels any lingering
anti-free sheet prejudices .
Cynics will say that when you're the smallest kid in the playground
you've got to do something dramatic. True, but Metro is also doing the
rest of the industry a service and we should all be grateful for
- Claire Beale is now a mum. Her son is still unnamed.