Geoffrey Roche

President, Geoffrey B. Roche & Partners, TorontoAfew weeks ago, home furnishings retailer Ikea showed a 17% increase in sales of its plates over the same period last year, says Geoffrey Roche.The increase came just days after the appearance of a full-page...

President, Geoffrey B. Roche & Partners, Toronto

Afew weeks ago, home furnishings retailer Ikea showed a 17% increase in sales of its plates over the same period last year, says Geoffrey Roche.

The increase came just days after the appearance of a full-page color ad placed in newspapers across the country, in which a selection of Ikea dishes were displayed under the title ‘Finally, a romantic alternative to cumbersome diamonds.’

‘That’s what so fabulous about newspaper,’ Roche says. ‘You literally know the next day that it’s worked.’

A similar ad entitled, ‘Where to plant your bulbs this fall’ displayed Ikea lamps.

The newspaper ads are one component of a multi-media campaign launched this fall that also includes tv and magazines.

Q. Why did you choose newspapers for this campaign?

A. It’s very much for its immediacy and for its reach. It’s very quickly communicating to people.

Another thing, newspapers are extremely timely.

Our closings on these things are literally two, three or four days [in advance of the publication date,] so the client can be changing merchandise up until the last minute.

You just don’t have those kind of closings with other media. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve sent stuff to the Globe at 6 p.m.

It’s a great creative opportunity to be able to take advantage of a snowstorm, or the fact that your car just won an award, or the fact that your prices have dropped dramatically.

You can get your message out to millions of people overnight.

Q. Are newspapers underused for image advertising?

A. Yes, very much so. I think people see it as a medium that’s only around for a day. They think if you put your campaign in magazines, it’s something people are going to have to stare at.

They think because someone’s paid more for [the publication,] they are going to keep it around for a longer time. I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s all in the way you use the newpaper. You could do it as an on-going campaign, rather than a one-off. Most great campaigns count on a number of executions. It’s a great way to launch a product but, as well, do a build over a period of time.

It’s also not a terribly expensive medium in terms of production.

Most people would use newspaper in black and white, but the great thing is, even using color, production in newspaper is next to nothing. The cost of doing a black-and-white ad, versus magazine or outdoor or tv or radio is cheap.

If you have a $100,000 budget, you don’t have to spend one-quarter of your budget to get the ad in there.

Q. Excluding your own work, what have been some of the best examples of image building in newspapers?

A. Lexus, Apple and Canadian Airlines.

Lexus did a brilliant launch. And they’ve done a great job of keeping the campaign going by consistently doing great newspaper ads and keeping the car top-of-mind with the people they want to talk to.

Apple often has a new product introduction, and they take great advantage of medium, because of its immediacy.

Q. What qualities do successful newspaper image campaigns have in common?

A. Smart use of the size.

That doesn’t mean that someone buys full page. We had an ad that got an incredible amount of play, it made CBC Newsworld, it was picked up by lots of magazines, and the ad was two columns by 50 lines.

It was a little Micra ad for Nissan and it said, ‘Mr. Campeau, you’re car is ready’. So it doesn’t have to be a huge ad to work. Any good ad will work in newspaper. But that’s true of any medium.

It’s also a great place, as Lexus and Canadian Airlines have shown, to do relatively long copy about what are some fairly complicated products. As long as you have a good story to tell, that’s the important point.

Q. What specific challenges does the medium present – what are its limitations?

A. I think its limitations are the quality of reproduction, not necessarily with individual papers, but across all papers.

In Europe, they have a lot of four-color presses in place and their reproduction is great. Our Ikea ads are done with three-color presses. The black you see in those ads is the type only.

The Toronto Star is beginning to be able to do [four-color.] It’s unbelievable stuff. It’s spectacular.

The newspaper industry as a whole has to make that investment, they have to move ahead, if they are going to attract the major advertisers.

It would also be nice if they would standardize their format.

We have to make separate material today for a paper out of Vancouver.It’s a very important paper, so we do that, but it’s incredible that we should have to.

And then there are the tabloids. As well as the broadsheets. So right now, we end up having to make three sets of material.

Q. Do you think technological innovations, such as a new four-color process, or more flexible layouts, would convince more advertising agencies to use newspapers for image building?

A. Unquestionably.

Q. Why is is that image advertising in newspapers is more prevalent in Britain and the United States than in Canada?

A. It’s because of the quality of the color you get in the papers down there There’s also not as much aggressiveness on the part of the Canadian newspaper industry.

[u.s. newspapers] are more flexible on what they’ll do to get advertisers to use newspaper.

Q. People in the newspaper industry have said that one of the main reasons that a lot of creative directors don’t use newspapers for image advertising is because it’s harder to be creative in newspapers. What do you say to that?

A. I think that is the biggest crock I’ve heard. Talk about lazy.

If you are in a big agency, usually newspaper ads are given short shrift. Most people spend their time waiting for a 60 second tv commercial.

But the thing they should realize is you can make your career in two years, if you do great ads in a medium where it’s not expected.

[The client] will let you get away with more. That’s a great opportunity. And half the time it’s thrown away. Agencies ignore it as a place to do some wonderful stuff.

You can’t buy a seven-second television commercial, you can’t buy a tiny little ad in a magazine.

But in newspapers, you can buy anything you want. No other medium offers you that. It’s immensely flexible.

Q. What trends do you see in image advertising?

A. Clients, more and more, are going to want to get a faster increase in awareness. They want to get out there right away.

Newspapers are a great way to do that, if [the client is] willing to take that leap. The return on investment can be great.