REGIONAL PRESS: ADS GO LOCAL - The regional press is thriving, but is it winning new advertisers? Robert Dwek investigates four campaigns to see just how successful the medium was for them



Marketing is full of military metaphors but it still seems odd to hear

an Army man such as Colonel Rory Clayton, the head of plans for Army

recruitment, talking so knowledegably about marketing. Over the past 18

months, he has overseen a significant strategic U-turn in the Army’s


’We had a major problem (because of a drop in recruits) and had to find

a solution,’ he explains. So, instead of concentrating on one big

national ad campaign, as the Army had previously, Clayton decided to

advance on several fronts. ’Army recruitment happens at a local level so

it makes sense for our advertising to reflect that,’ he says.

Local Army marketing managers were given more autonomy with their


But like all good generals (sorry, colonels), Clayton kept a firm

central grip on battle plans. Recent campaigns run in this way, using

carefully placed and sized ads in classified sections, have increased

the Army’s share of the relevant recruitment pool of 16- to 19-year-olds

by 60 per cent. ’Our results have a direct correlation with the new

planning process,’ Clayton concludes.

He has been aided in his mission by the Army’s media buyer, MediaVest,

and its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. Geraldine Cruise, head of regional

media at MediaVest, notes that a greater emphasis on thinking locally

has also required a more co-ordinated approach to both the creative and

the media buying.

’We work from a menu format and give guidance to local Army marketing

managers,’ she says. ’This makes local and national advertising much

more synergistic. It also allows local Army offices to get on with the

business of recruiting rather than worrying about what kind of

advertising to run.’


’Fox has a big problem because about 60 per cent of cable TV subscribers

don’t have access to its network,’ says Paul House, new-business

development manager at AMRA, the regional press sales house. This is

where House and co come in. The client’s end result was a regional press

campaign that used famous FKN characters such as Ace Ventura Pet

Detective, Power Rangers and Spiderman to tantalise consumers and,

importantly, encourage them to persuade local cable companies to carry


Ending earlier this year, the campaign marked a regional press milestone

for Fox, which had tended to steer clear of this medium in the past.

More than 200 insertions ran in 14 different news-papers, complemented

by a major poster campaign. Media buying focused on weekend leisure

pages, TV listings pages and sports results pages - all considered key

reading for its main target audience of children and young families.

Nic Jones, managing director of Pesterpower, which acted as Fox’s media

buyer, admits that without AMRA, ’I would have been pretty lost, I’ve

never bought regional press before.’ he says. Although it’s still too

early to say whether the campaign has been a success, Jones adds: ’If I

ever buy regional press on the same scale again, it will definitely be

in a centralised way. It makes life much easier for me by cutting out

all the individual negotiations.’


Fox Kids Network will probably be reassured to know that life ain’t so

easy for the cable companies that have the power to carry or reject its

channel. One of them, Telewest, has marketing problems requiring a fair

bit of lateral thinking. Because its product is only relevant to

specific areas of the country, Telewest has a hard time using national

media to advertise itself. ’In fact, we have between 70 per cent and 80

per cent wastage,’ Chris Fry, head of marketing communications for

Telewest, admits.

One possible answer was to try a more focused approach, with regional

press playing a starring role in a mixed media schedule. Imaginative

media buying was exemplified by a series of ads appearing on consecutive

pages, with the first a quarter-page, the second a third-page and the

third a half-page - conveying the creative message of a company boasting

1,000 new customers a day.

Regional news opportunities were also leveraged so that the ads seemed

at home in their local environment.

Kevin Grand, managing director of Media Insight, Telewest’s media buyer,

says: ’When executed well, regional press allows an association with the

local community, enabling a client to develop a unique and credible

personality at grass roots level.’

There were, of course, a few obstacles, such as a lack of good quality

local newspapers around London and problems in maintaining a consistent

look and feel to the ads. But these niggles were easily outweighed by

the bonuses. Telewest has put its money where its mouth is, with

regional press spend in 1997 (covering ads in 40 titles) up by a

whopping 170 per cent on 1996.


Famous (some might say infamous) for its regional TV ads, Harvester

recently took the strategic decision to move into the regional press.

The catalyst was a major brand revamp and product overhaul, billed as a

’new menu launch’ which affected all 127 restaurants.

Harvester’s media buyer, BBJ Media Services, carried out some consumer

research and found that regional/local press was the best-performing

medium in terms of influencing restaurant choice. Its 42 per cent score

compared favourably against 23 per cent for personal recommendation, 18

per cent for Yellow Pages, 3 per cent for the national daily press and 2

per cent for local radio and posters.

Carol Alexander, head of regional press at BBJ, says the campaign was

planned centrally but used local press: ’This offered us the flexibility

to tailor our targeting around individual restaurants.’ This meant that

more specific information, such as address and telephone number details,

could be incorporated into the body copy. Creatively, the message was

also customised for each restaurant, but the corporate rebranding was

given equal prominence.

As well as placing the ads in the entertainment and eating out sections,

Harvester maximised its use of colour by taking ads in the main news


The campaign, which ran in a total of 89 titles, began on 6 April and

registered ’some very good figures’ over the Easter weekend. It was an

integrated part of a through-the-line campaign. Harvester plans to

continue using regional press.

Dick Bloomfield, a managing partner of Harvester’s ad agency, FCA!,

comments: ’This is the first time we have supported a new menu launch in

this way.

We wanted to focus people’s attention on the product and give them more

of a reason to visit a Harvester rather than any other restaurant.’