Threatspotting: Choose online. Choose ambient. Choose a dirty great projection. But are clients still choosing traditional media, asks Harriot Lane Fox?

Working in traditional media sales may soon feel like walking through a shooting range while wearing a target.

Working in traditional media sales may soon feel like walking

through a shooting range while wearing a target.

The volley of threats is coming thick and fast: the proliferation of new

media and fragmentation of the old, changing consumer lifestyles and

patterns of media usage, not to mention the pressures on clients both to

control costs and stand out in increasingly crowded markets.

Between 1988 and 1997 the number of magazine titles grew by 19 per cent,

radio stations by 213 per cent and television stations by 1,525 per

cent, while the web sprouted 140 billion pages, according to The Henley


Yet it predicts a mere pounds 8 increase in spend on media per person

per year in 1999, and only six minutes a week extra attention.

No wonder high-profile clients such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and

Boots are taking money away from traditional media in favour of the

internet, direct marketing and events (see panel).

’Money is moving very fast out of conventional advertising - where there

is huge wastage - to much more personal media,’ says David Miller,

partner at customer communications agency Miller Bainbridge. ’I don’t

think we need to worry about the total demise of traditional media but

new techniques are constantly evolving to talk to the customer base in a

way that is much more discreet, powerful and private.’

Ask media owners what the biggest threats are to their ad business and

all are eager to claim that their platform continues to provide the best


Newspaper groups pour scorn on the notion that people are suddenly going

to ditch that breakfast or commuter reading habit, simply because

there’s now an alternative. Instead, they point to spin-off online

brands, which they say will add new audiences and provide extra

opportunities to reach existing readers.

’We are quite aware that there are threats,’ concedes Hugo Drayton,

managing director of Hollinger Telegraph New Media. ’Classified is an

area where we need to protect existing off-line franchises and build

very strong online ones.’

When it comes to display advertising, Danny Meadows-Klue, publisher of

the Electronic Telegraph, believes there will be a new split. ’Print

will deliver very large audiences - at a time when TV fragmentation is

making it harder to reach them - for brand development and enhancement

The internet will be the forum for new prices and products.’

Fragmentation benefits

The TV owners are also convinced that they will not suffer. According to

Julian Dobinson, head of planning and sales research at Granada Media,

fragmentation is not a dirty word. The fact that Coronation Street could

end up being watched across 20 channels will benefit both the niche

marketer who wants to target a specific audience and the mass marketer

who can book the same ad into every break.

Dobinson says broadcasters should embrace new media. ’Digital will be

able to deliver information and sell directly off the screen. The latter

will be additional business rather than cutting into the old.’

David Sanderson, sales director of Carlton Digital Sales, agrees. ’The

internet is fantastic but the vast majority of the population are not

going to spend time surfing the web on their PC. They will be

interacting via their TV screen.’

The first surveys on audience take-up of digital are just about to be

carried out. Figures for internet penetration and ad revenue - up 139

per cent to pounds 19.4 million in 1998 (Internet Advertising Bureau/

PricewaterhouseCoopers) - are already available. And this is where the

big battle will be, in providing detailed proof of the effectiveness of

each medium. There are already concerns about the declining rate of

click-through on banner advertising.

Anna Barez is sales director of Lycos, one of the biggest beneficiaries

of internet ad revenue. She claims the search engine achieves a very

high click-through with new technologies that are coming on line all the

time - video banners, for example, or links to call centres. ’You can

target people quite well, to the level of those that are interested in

monitors for big presentations, and the wastage is minimal.’ She says

that Lycos is no threat to traditional publishers, but since the

internet is part of the mix for 70 per cent of clients, the search

engine must have pinched the revenue from somewhere.

Other rivals are bidding to prove their credentials too, including


New technology will allow billboards to be changed several times a day,

sites are constantly being improved and research is becoming more


Francis Goodwin, managing director of Maiden Outdoor, cites the number

of new e-businesses running poster campaigns as proof of the medium’s

potential. ’It has the potential to cannibalise other media,’ he


Ambient media, once considered the flaky end of advertising, is growing

- faster, in fact, than the rest of outdoor. Philip Vecht is managing

director of Admedia, which sells washroom posters in 160 shopping

centres and 125 motorway service stations. In total, he has control of

80 million-plus monthly impacts of up to 105 seconds’ duration for

women. He’s virtually at the point of sale and has some blue-chip client

names - including Nivea, Pfizer and Unilever.

’Within the last year we’ve generated millions of pounds from budgets

that wouldn’t have been allocated to washrooms because they didn’t

exist,’ Vecht says. ’I’ve had three calls this week from people that

have taken money either out of radio or press and given it to us.’

It may seem ridiculous to suggest ambient as a threat to TV and press,

but as it chips away at traditional budgets the lost revenue could run

into millions.

Stunt drivers

Stunts are another boom area as clients desperately look for ways to

stand out from the crowd. Ex-head of sales at Flextech TV, Anna Carloss,

now runs Cunning Stunts, her own company arranging stunts and scams for

increasingly high-profile clients, including FHM, Qantas and Maryland


She says: ’We feel communication can go beyond more traditional routes

and that ads can be tailored to a brand in a style that sets it above

the crowd.’

The famous naked Gail Porter projection on the side of the Houses of

Parliament - to promote FHM - garnered picture stories on the front page

of the Daily Sport, page two of The Sun, page three of The Mirror, and

in The Express and Daily Star. The Big Breakfast covered it, and so did

This Morning.

Serious mileage for a pounds 10,000 spend.

Another Cunning Stunts special was adding a twist to the Qantas

’dreamtime’ Business Class campaign in the form of a Damien Hirst-style

installation in Trafalgar Square - a big perspex box containing two

Qantas airline seats with a couple of business types asleep in them. For

the photocall, which pulled in 15 snappers and journalists, Cunning

Stunts got Johnny Vaughn to grab a kip there after his early morning

start on The Big Breakfast.

’I don’t think stunts are a fad,’ says Carloss. ’People are intrigued by

this new area.’

PR is vital if you’re going to get the best out of stunts. And while

Adrian Wheeler, chief executive of GCI, denies that public relations is

encroaching on traditional advertising, he confirms that it is growing

in stature and becoming a larger ingredient in the marketing mix.

Even flyposters are benefiting. Maryanne McNamara, head of new business

development at Diabolical Liberties, is reticent about naming clients

since many of them are wary of being associated with flyposting, but she

says this supposedly shady medium is attracting a number of blue-chip

clients. And the costs are lower than a traditional national


Every blow could weaken traditional media owners and soften them up for

the next one. But not everybody agrees. Colin Gottlieb, managing partner

of Manning Gottlieb Media, is a loyalist. ’If I was a shareholder in

News International, I wouldn’t necessarily be thinking ’shit, I’ve got

to sell in 12 months’.’

Others prefer to guard against complacency. The Electronic Telegraph’s

Meadows-Klue comments: ’The warning for all of us is that if we don’t

take advantage of all the new opportunities out there, and move

carefully, clever start-ups will march into that space, build brands,

and take revenues that we may naively have thought would be ours.’


In the past 12 months the world’s two biggest spenders have suggested

that mass advertising has had its day as the core of their marketing


Procter & Gamble wants to develop one-to-one relationships with


The company has added direct marketing agency Evans Hunt Scott to its

roster, and last year it created the role of European head of

interactive marketing, signalling its interest in the internet and

digital TV. Unilever is also looking to divert some of its mammoth spend

into direct marketing, posters, events and new media.

While both companies are legendary for their devotion to mainstream TV

advertising, it is hard to see how print budgets could escape unaffected

in the move towards tighter targeting and interactivity.

When it comes to mainstream media, Boots is also walking. Its shift away

from external print, TV and radio began some time ago.

’Traditional forms of advertising are becoming less effective,’ says

Francis Thomas, group media relations manager at the Boots Company. ’So

why not take control of the channels of communication? Retailers have

traditionally brought other services in-house and now we are integrating

ourselves into media ownership.’

The Boots-owned Health & Beauty is the fourth highest circulation

magazine in the UK. The Advantage Card gives the company control over

direct mail, and marketing budgets have not gone up to fund it. Instead,

product managers have a choice between spending on advertising or giving

away extra points.

And which would you choose when the latter is claimed to have boosted

margins last year by 0.1 per cent?

Boots’ latest move into media ownership came with the launch in October

of a women’s website, The joint venture with Hollinger

Telegraph New Media provides news, information and online shopping and

Boots is sponsoring the health and beauty channel.

E-commerce is the prime motivator but the site will also pull in revenue

from sponsorship and advertising.

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