Agencies ‘failing to get creative’ with regional press advertising

Media planners and buyers should be making more of the creative opportunities offered to them by the regional press, Walker Media managing partner Charlie Varley said this week.

He also suggests that agencies could be given a sum of money to develop creative campaigns in return for space donated by The Newspaper Society.

The Newspaper Marketing Agency has just announced a similar move on behalf of the national press.

Varley said: “At heart, there’s not enough understanding of the creative opportunities in the regional press or enough familiarity with the newspapers. The editor of the local paper is hugely influential in the local community.

As media planners and buyers we need to make more of that – we need to try to find a way of harnessing the huge local community influence.

“It’s about the way we trade with each other. Many agencies run separate units for regional matters, which means they’re too far down the briefing chain.

There does need to be regional specialism but that specialism sometimes doesn’t allow for opportunities – and maybe it’s time for agencies to rethink their national/regional structure.”

In addition, said Varley, the NS should start presenting regional press in the same way as multichannel TV by dividing its audi- ence into categories. “It’d be a really big step in terms of presenting the regional press as national media,” he said.

Varley cites Dixons’ sponsorship of Trinity Mirror’s Euro 2004 supplement – handled by Walker Media – as a campaign embracing the strengths of both national and regional media.

Jeff Lawrenson, director and general manager of Amra, Manchester, agreed with the thrust of Varley’s argument, which he first put forward in a newsletter by the Trinity Mirror regional sales house.

“We’re looking for more agency people to adopt the philosophy that Charlie points to.

Generally, the regional newspaper medium is not used creatively by agencies – all too often it’s looked upon as a point of sale medium, when really it’s capable of doing far more,” he said.

“Regional press has had a tremendous year and more people are now beginning to embrace the sector.”

Hannah Murphy, press manager for Vizeum, points to the Dixons/Trinity Mirror sponsorship as an example of a campaign that succeeded in tying a national and regional portfolio together.

“It was an exciting approach and an amazing opportunity,” she said. “I agree that the medium is under-used. One of the main reasons for this is the sheer diversity of the regional press – with its 1,800 titles. It’s more time consuming to come up with a creative solution than to work with a national press title and, in terms of branding, it’s also harder to pursue. But the medium does have amazing benefits – notably the high level of solas readership.”

NS communications director Lynne Anderson said confidence within the regional press has grown at an impressive rate, with the sector now offering a wealth of creative potential.

“The regional press consistently proves its worth to advertisers, as can be seen in the AA figures, which show the regional press is the only medium to have increased advertising revenue over the past 12 years,” he said.

By Lucia Cockcroft

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