The teflon city

Despite the media spend fallout from SARS and the day the lights went out, Canada's largest city is sizzling, with local and national newspapers relatively healthy, radio demand on the rise and the economic engine that is TV leading the way.

Despite the media spend fallout from SARS and the day the lights went out, Canada’s largest city is sizzling, with local and national newspapers relatively healthy, radio demand on the rise and the economic engine that is TV leading the way.

Television

Karen Nayler, managing director at Mindshare Canada, says the hit from the Aug. 14 blackout – ads that weren’t seen because there was no power – wasn’t too bad. She expects to recover lost inventory by this fall. ‘Were working with [broadcasters] to find some equitable way to make sure that all of our lost audience is returned,’ she says.

And with the announcement of both municipal and provincial elections and the spend influx that comes with them, avails for TV are ‘starting to get really tight,’ says Ed Weiss, associate media director at Echo Advertising.

This is good news for Toronto 1, the new Craig Media TV station launching this week. The channel may need it, because it’s kept a mysteriously low profile to date, say buyers.

Cathy Collier, VP, media director at Cossette Media, says she’s feeling more apprehensive about the channel’s prospects now than she was a year earlier. She says the station still has a lot of inventory left. ‘To come on to the Toronto scene is going to take a lot of hype and excitement and to date I haven’t seen very much.’

Somewhat surprisingly, Toronto 1′s pricing is said to be very aggressive, which doesn’t do much to bump competitor Citytv off any media plans. But with the market so hot, Weiss says people will have no choice but to buy Toronto 1 just to get on TV somewhere. Says Weiss: ‘Toronto 1 is going to pick up some buy just through trickle down. But I don’t think the ratings are going to be all that strong.’

Radio

Radio has been active in Hogtown, what with new entrant JACK-FM and a sudden flurry of personality changes on various top stations.

Some of these include Humble & Fred moving from Mojo to Mix 99, John Oakley moving from CFRB to Mojo, and Mad Dog and Billie moving from KISS 92.5 (which is now JACK) to CHFI. Buyers don’t see any of these moves doing much for the stations, although some, like the Mix, may lose ground as audiences stay loyal to the format rather than to the personalities.

‘When the first books come out, I think you’ll definitely see the numbers change for some of these stations as the bigger personalities move around,’ says Jeffery Thibodeau, media director at Sharpe Blackmore EURO RSCG.

The real threat is the arrival of Rogers’ JACK-FM, which enjoyed phenomenal success when it launched in Vancouver. Says Weiss, ‘JACK-FM will probably take share from every significant station – CHUM-FM, maybe a little bit from CHFI and Q107.’

Newspaper

In the newspaper scene, the Globe and Mail is attempting to increase its relevance to Toronto readers with the introduction of its new section simply called ‘Toronto.’ Nayler says the move is reflective of a larger shift in attitude she’s seeing among the papers.

‘The papers are far more aggressive about trying to reformat. There’s more interest in trying to hold readers and different readers coming in,’ she says, referencing the traditionally blue-collar Toronto Sun trying to cultivate a business readership. ‘They’re trying to add more value and have more willingness to work with the agencies and advertisers.’

Collier thinks the Globe is making a smart move with its new section, adding that its placement inside the paper’s front section provides more editorial to carry the ads.

However, despite this activity, the local readership picture remains largely unchanged: the Toronto Star comfortably in the lead, the Sun bringing up a game second, and the Globe still attempting to throttle CanWest’s National Post.

Out-of-home

Overall, outdoor is healthy, though Nayler says it’s a buyer’s market at the moment, even in areas like Toronto’s Dundas Square, where inventory is said by some to be overpriced.

If you head down to Yonge St. to Dundas Square, Toronto’s much-hyped ‘Times Square North,’ you may notice that the billboards up there are kind of…old.

Alan High, VP operations and marketing for Toronto-based Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that owns most of the Dundas Square inventory, concedes that sales have been sluggish. But he sees light at the end of the tunnel. ‘Are some of the signs in the vicinity tough to sell? Sure,’ he says. ‘But as the square grows and marketers become more aware of it, there’s going to be an influx of more advertisers.’