MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON: LATE COPY CHARGES; Will the Telegraph’s levy solve the problem of late ad copy?

Is a tariff the solution? Or will it drive clients away? Alasdair Reid investigates

Is a tariff the solution? Or will it drive clients away? Alasdair Reid


Newspapers, as everyone who’s seen a corny old film like Ace in the Hole

can testify, are obsessed with deadlines. Something pretty important has

to happen before they shout ‘Hold the front page’. So they’re hardly

likely to stop the presses for a quarter-page ad with spot colour, are


Sadly, the answer is yes. Late ad copy causes as many, if not more,

production problems as the editorial side does. Late production means

late distribution and that means lost sales. Most newspaper groups have

made occasional efforts to make agencies and clients get their acts

together but now the Telegraph Group has decided to get tough. It

intends to levy a 10 per cent surcharge on all late copy (Campaign, 17


Is this wise? After all, some clients need to run late copy. Because

they want to keep featured prices a secret as long as possible, retail

clients commonly don’t even clear copy until a matter of hours before

the presses are due to roll.

Bill Kinlay, the media director of O&M Media, can see why the Telegraph

Group wants to impose a tariff but he’s sceptical about it having the

desired effect.

‘Maybe persistent offenders should be punished, especially those who

have no good reason to be late,’ he argues. ‘In that respect, it may

focus a few minds. But the big agencies won’t expect to pay it. During

negotiations, they’ll merely add another clause or two to deal with this


Kinlay thinks that the scheme has other flaws: ‘Topical and tactical

advertising has always been part of the allure of newspapers and I don’t

think they want to drive it out. It would be to the detriment of the


Bill Jones, the press director of Mediacom, also believes that the move

will prove unworkable. ‘On many pieces of business, we don’t actually

book the space within the time frame they’re referring to, never mind

getting the copy to them,’ he says. ‘And with retail clients, the

problems are obvious.

‘There are many aspects that I don’t think the Telegraph Group has

thought through. For instance, is the surcharge really a media cost - do

we earn commission on it?

‘It is right to try to do something about late copy - it does cause real

problems. But I can’t see this changing the behaviour of some clients.

If they hit problems they’ll go elsewhere. If it had been a joint

statement from the members of the Newspaper Publishers Association it

might have made more sense and people might have taken it more



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