Arif Durrani: The battle for newspaper ad spend has never been bloodier

We all know newspapers have their backs against the wall in these times but, for some, the battle for advertising spend has become increasingly bloody, and casualties are starting to emerge.

Arif Durrani: The battle for newspaper ad spend has never been bloodier
Arif Durrani: The battle for newspaper ad spend has never been bloodier

Traders at Aegis Media, home to Carat and Vizeum, are said to have lost faith in News International’s Times and Sun brands to deliver the kind of reach and influence they once did.

Nielsen figures for the last calendar year underline the shift in Aegis’ activities, with around seven percentage points – some £12 million worth of spend – being extracted from NI’s portfolio, the bulk of which (£8 million) has been redirected towards Mirror Group titles.

A senior source at Aegis tells me: "Any agency looking at News International will be asking: ‘What’s your next play?’ The Times sits behind its paywall, with a very local, loyal but small audience, while print sales fall and the general stink from the hacking scandal drags on.

"We’re not saying ‘taps off’ on all clients’ spend at all, but it is certainly less important as a media owner than it used to be, and our activity will reflect that."

'Traders at Aegis Media have lost faith in The Times and The Sun to deliver the reach they once did'

Figures suggest 16 of Aegis’ top 20 press clients have reined in spend for The Times and The Sun. British Gas, for example, has recorded a 33 per cent swing in favour of the Mirror Group, similarly Shop Direct (32 per cent), Debenhams (15.8 per cent) and Vauxhall Motors (11.4 per cent).

An NI source says no brand marketer worth their salt believes a reader of the Daily Mirror, with its socialist heritage, is the same as a reader of The Sun, the UK’s most popular newspaper. He adds, ominously: "It’s more important than ever for clients to demand full transparency from agencies to ensure their best interests are being looked after."

Meanwhile, Mirror Group is also believed to be in the process of moving its £6 million media business out of Arena – where it has sat for three years – and into new best friend, Aegis, without a pitch.

All very messy indeed, and no doubt more blood will be spilt before the day is through.

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