Can national newspapers get adland’s big fish to take the bait?

The Newspaper Marketing Agency - In an already mature sector, the Newspaper Marketing Agency is angling to grow its advertiser base by dangling £10m of bait. James Livesley casts an eye over the fight to win new business

In media, television seems to always catch more than its share of the big-fish advertisers – at least from where the other media stand.

The big question for all the other media has been how to lure away some of those advertisers currently being reeled in by TV.

The Radio Advertising Bureau, the Periodical Publishers’ Association, the Outdoor Advertising Association and The Newspaper Society have all cast their lines in the water in order to pull in a bigger share of advertising spend.

But over the past year, few industry bodies have tried harder than the Newspaper Marketing Agency to find the right bait.

After pulling up a few boots, tyres and shopping trolleys over the past year, the NMA is trying once again to find a way for national newspapers to hook more of the big advertising fish.

Last week, the NMA announced that, together, the national newspapers, with the exception of the Financial Times , are giving away a total of £10m of advertising space.

This giveaway is designed to give clients the opportunity to appear in national press titles to monitor the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. The advertisers, which will fund the research, must then allow the NMA to publish case studies of the results.

This is the third stage of a project called Measuring Advertising Effectiveness of Newspapers – A Fresh Approach .

This research began in January of this year when six strategic roles of newspapers were laid out: call to action; depth of information; brand values; reappraisal; public agenda and extension. The second stage involved research agency Hall & Partners, which developed new metrics to measure these different advertising roles. This £10m bonanza will now show whether the proof of the pudding really will be in the eating.

Maureen Duffy, chief executive of the NMA, claims these tests have brought about confidence from agencies in the project.

“We’ve tested and validated these metrics and values,” says Duffy. “And that has given confidence to agencies that the metrics work. Now we want final proof of the effect.”

This is the latest step in what has not been an easy ride for the Newspaper Marketing Agency.

In August, Media Week held a dinner at Claridge’s where several top figures in the newspaper industry discussed the issues of the year. The NMA was high on the agenda.

Paul Thomas, press director at MindShare, said on that occasion: “Maureen Duffy has a massive task ahead of her. This is a job that I wouldn’t want. Even trying to get the individual characters around the table is difficult.”

Even Nigel Bromley, senior marketing manager of the NMA, admitted at the dinner that up to that point the organisation had some shortcomings: “We know we have to do more. The benchmark is higher and it keeps getting raised, and it’ll continue to be raised as we’re all competing for the same amount of cash.”

Additionally, and apart from the sheer size of the task of increasing revenue, other areas have not quite gone the NMA’s way. During the last Rugby World Cup, the NMA had to go on the defensive when one of its promotions went pear-shaped.

A package offering advertising alongside rugby editorial across national titles failed to attract even a single advertiser.

Chief executive Duffy defended the package, saying there had been low expectations within the NMA that any of the packages would “realistically be sold this year”.

And the NMA has also been in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority. A series of spoof ads appeared in national newspapers with website addresses to explain this and calculate impact. But the creative pushed boundaries. The ASA upheld a complaint against an ad in which a man was impaled by a stiletto heel. Another that featured pain relief for women was labelled “misleading and irresponsible” by the ASA.

While the ASA issue did not directly hit the effectiveness campaign, it has done no favours to the image of the trade body.

Despite such setbacks, reaction to the latest stage of pushing the newspaper medium has been positive, both among agencies and newspapers.

Chris White-Smith, group sales director for the Telegraph, says the NMA is on the right track with the Fresh Approach and has done well since its inception.

Of the £10m ad giveaway, White-Smith adds: “This will prove the case studies we have spent the last two years building. The challenge was how they filled in the gap up to this point.

But with their research into women and youth they have gone a long way in the interim.”

Here, White-Smith is drawing on the latest research on readership trends around sport, women and youth, which all took place this year.

He also praises the NMA for bringing together the different newspaper publishers and getting them to work together for the benefit of all.

“I think we’ve confounded the critics,” says White-Smith, “They said it would never happen and it has.”

Robert Avery, group sales development controller at Express Newspapers, also sings the NMA’s praises.

“They’re doing a huge amount of stuff that’s never been done before,” says Avery.

“Research into women and the young then working to this which will tell how the whole thing works.”

Avery also offers a defence of the fiasco around the rugby World Cup. “With the rugby, it was just after the NMA had launched. They needed to take time to offer things. If they did it again, it would be much, much better. It wasn’t a mistake – it was early keenness.”

And agencies are saying things are on the up for the NMA. Vanessa Lenton, press research manager for Starcom Mediavest, has a positive outlook on the progress of the NMA.

“This project is the best by far to date because it lets advertisers get involved,” says Lenton.

“Internally, there’s been a lot of interest. People have been coming up to me and saying ‘How can we get involved with this?’.”

However, Lenton did provide one caveat about the tests put together by the NMA’s research agency Hall & Partners.

“The Hall’s tests, a lot of advertisers are sceptical about them because it’s not market stock testing, which people trust more,” says Lenton, referring to the fact that the sample group were asked to comment on advertising they were shown, as opposed to recalling their observations.

She adds: “There may be more discussion there. But then no research is perfect.”

Julie Hamshere, research manager at ZenithOptimedia, had similar reservations about the use of forced testing rather than spontaneous recall, but praised the investigation into newspapers as part of multimedia campaigns.

“It’s a really good first step in understanding multimedia schedules – we support that,” says Hamshere.

She adds that, given that the NMA needed a large sample group to test the campaign, the method it chose may have been the most practical option.

“Forced exposure isn’t ideal, but it’s understandable the way they’ve done it,” she notes. “For the size of the campaign they were looking at, they needed a decent enough sample size.”

The NMA ride has not been a smooth one so far but, judging by reaction to the Fresh Approach , things may be looking up.

It was never going to be easy for a mature media sector such as national newspapers to grow its advertiser base.

The NMA is hoping the its effectiveness research could remedy that situation.

NMA chief executive Duffy says that all of the £10m worth of advertising space is more or less full from January to April.

And, on the back of the work already done on the project, the NMA claims newspaper adverts can double the effectiveness of a multimedia campaign.

If this proves to be true – and the £10mgiveaway can provide some case studies which make the effectiveness case –maybe more of those big fish will finally start to bite at national newspapers.

Who’s lined upagainst the Newspaper Marketing Agency

Commercial TV Companies – The television broadcasters are preparing to launch an industry group and CTC is just the working title. The group will be backed by all themajor TV players and plans to run its own conference, which is intended to be a funky televisual event that shows off the medium’s best attributes.

Periodical Publishers’ Association – Toward the end of 2003 it launched PPA Marketing, part of a drive to increase magazines share of ad spend by a percentage point – equal to £100m.

The PPA’s advocacy programme, where sales people are trained to present how best to promote the magazine medium as a whole, is now in full swing for both the consumer and b2b markets.

Outdoor Advertising Association – In September 2003, the results of the OAA’s biggest ever campaign came in for criticism as it achieved 15% awareness compared to 32%for outdoor advertising in general.

There was good news for the year overall, however, as the OAA announced that share of ad spend grew.

Radio Advertising Bureau – Considered by many to be the gold standard for trade bodies, it has increased radio’s share of ad spend, leaping from 2%in 1992 to a 7%annual level as of June 2004 through initiatives such as its sales multiplier campaign, which put forward evidence that showed adding radio to a campaign will boost sales. Former MD Justin Sampson has crossed to ITV and is a major player in TV’s efforts to counter groups such as the RAB.

Newspaper Society – A shock start to the year for the NS when marketing director Russell Collier left after just eight months. In August, the society kicked off a nationwide campaign to highlight the effectiveness of the regional press as an ad medium. The NS is hoping the campaign will get more national advertisers to follow the COI and Ford and put more money in the regional press.

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