TV Listings Publications Special Report: Mass Vehicle covers niche medium

With six new specialty services on the horizon, it seems that the television medium is destined to deliver more clearly defined niche markets. But the books that chart the programs -- television listings publications -- continue to succeed as a mass...

With six new specialty services on the horizon, it seems that the television medium is destined to deliver more clearly defined niche markets. But the books that chart the programs — television listings publications — continue to succeed as a mass market vehicle reaching a broad audience spanning demographic and psychographic categories.

Once a simple guide to what to watch on tv, the guides have evolved into magazines of their own, offering readers information and entertainment, and advertisers a mass audience and a flexible environment in which to sell their products or services.

‘tv listings offer the best of two worlds,’ says Ross Campbell, media group manager for Saatchi & Saatchi.

‘The editorial is similar to People magazine, one of the best-selling magazines in Canada and the u.s., and the black-and-white grid pages offer a highlight-your-program type advertising environment.

‘It’s a viable medium we consider every time we’re looking for a mass market vehicle,’ he says.

From coast to coast, television guides are read and referred to by every member of the household.

Teenagers, members of the video generation, seek out the agenda of this week’s music shows. Dad monopolizes the crossword puzzle and looks at the schedule of Sunday’s sports events, while Mom reads the features on popular tv personalities, soap opera update, and looks for sales at local retailers.

With members of the house habitually curling up with the book for entertainment or bargain-hunting, television listings publications have become a household fixture.

And if the book is invaluable to the audience, it is essential to the advertisers who are guaranteed to reach a large audience that is split almost evenly between the sexes and covers a broad range of age groups.

‘It’s basically the same audience as tv-watchers who cross all demographics, belong to different age groups and different socio-economic groups,’ says Andrew Go, general manager of STARweek Magazine, the The Toronto Star’s weekly tv guide.

‘It’s a general type magazine that appeals to a broad range of people, unlike the more targeted magazines that are market-specific,’ he says.

With a circulation of more than 780,000, STARweek has a readership of more 1.5 million in the greater Toronto area, and more than 2 million nationally.

Its broad-ranging demographic profile mirrors that of its host paper, The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation daily paper which targets a mass market across all age barriers.

STARweek’s mass reach is a major selling feature, but frequency is an equally important factor, says Go.

Similarly The Toronto Sun’s TV Magazine, with the second largest penetration of the Toronto market, sells on the basis of reach and frequency, says Mary Lu Medley, display advertising manager for TV Magazine.

Its 750,000-plus circulation skews to a slightly younger audience than STARweek, and is composed of heavier tv watchers.

More than half of TV Magazine’s readership watches more than 14 hours of television a week and carefully plans its viewing week using the magazine, says Medley.

With the distinction of being the only weekly publication read in the house over a seven-day period, the frequency with which readers pick up the tv listings is an important selling feature for all tv listings sales people.

With all members of the family taking an interest in the magazine, the advertiser is guaranteed to reach everyone in the house more than once during the week says T.J. Flynn, advertising sales director for TV Guide, a national television listings book.

Adults read TV Guide an average of 10 times a week and spend a total of 63 minutes with each issue, according to 1994 readership statistics provided by PMB Print Measurement Bureau. And when the adults put the book down, 12% of teenagers age 12 to 17 pick it up to have a look.

People aren’t just looking for the time and station showing a Cheers rerun, Flynn says. They’re reading the book and planning their week of viewing.

‘TV Guide readers aren’t flippers. They’re interested in reading about television. They look at the feature editorials and the program section, and then go through and highlight what they want to watch,’ says Flynn.

Immersed in TV Guide, readers are exposed to more national advertisers than in any other tv listing.

The publication sandwiches newsprint television-viewing grids between a large number of glossy editorial pages which report the latest on primetime drama Models Inc. and who is doing what to whom on daytime soap The Young and the Restless.

Unlike any other Canadian tv listing, Telemedia’s TV Guide and its French-language sister publication TV Hebdo are sold on the newsstand.

According to Flynn, more than 40% of TV Guide’s 873,000 readers travel to the store to buy it every week. This kind of tv patriotism creates an advertising climate conducive to vast exposure, says Flynn.

‘We’re a magazine delivering a television audience, so particularly with advertisers using a multimedia television and print campaign, it’s the most logical thing in the world to use the tv listings,’ he adds.

‘It’s the only magazine in the country where the reader could be sitting viewing a General Motors’ ad and reading it at the same time,’ he says.

Although local retailers are the primary source of ad revenue for most tv listings publications, the automotive industry and major department store chains like Eaton’s and Sears make up the bulk of national advertisers that account for anywhere from 5% to 60% of ad revenue for the industry.

By virtue of sheer numbers, the tv listings are an appropriate venue for national advertisers, says Liz Martin, publisher and general manager for TV times, the tv listings publication distributed through the Southam chain of newspapers.

‘We reach more than 2 million readers, virtually split up the middle between men and women. Car manufacturers have found we have the audience they’re looking for – you’re hard-pressed to find a publication that delivers more than one million men,’ she says.

TV times is distributed through 18 different newspapers across central and western Canada including The Calgary Herald, The Vancouver Sun, The North Bay Nugget and The Kingston Whig-Standard, with a combined national circulation of 2,049,000.

According to pmb statistics, TV times readership increased 14% from 1993 to 1994, from 2,767,000 to 3,188,000.

Unlike TV Guide, which is skewed to a heavy tv-watching audience, 60% of TV times readers are defined as light tv watchers.

The book is skewed towards the white collar worker, who is better educated with a higher-than-average income, says Martin. Almost 50% of Canadians with a university degree read TV times, and 53% of the population with a household income over $50,000 has it in the house on a weekly basis, according to pmb statistics.

Advertising space is sold on local, regional, and national levels, with a central Toronto office generating all editorial content.

Local retailers buy about 40% of TV times’ advertising space and the book competes with community newspapers and telephone directories as a way of advertising goods and services.

Viewers have begun treating the book as a primary guide to local sales, says Martin.

‘TV times is going through a redesign and what has come back to me through focus groups in our market research is that the readers are reading as much for the ads as for the listings information.’

‘We’ve found that you need a nucleus of ads to create this effect, but what it does is create an environment for national advertisers that promotes the readership of their audience,’ Martin says.

Sooter’s photography chain has utilized the TV times environment for the last 15 years, most often buying the outside back page.

‘The advantage of the outside back cover is having a four-color ad that sits on the coffee table for seven days,’ says David Betts, vice-president sales and marketing at Sooter’s.

Retail advertisers use inside ads to target readers planning on making home improvement-related purchases.

Although tv listings publications are among the few magazines with an attraction to the teen market, the majority of readers fall into the 25-54 demographic.

Most of those readers own their own homes which prompts the slew of home improvement type advertising.

From draperies and carpeting to bathroom fixtures and kitchen cabinets, virtually all categories of advertisers selling products for the home make use of the tv listings.

TV times readers reflect the skilled kind of audience these advertisers are vying for: 35% of TV times’ readers have remodeled their kitchens, 38% have bought wall-to-wall carpeting, and 37% have remodelled their bathrooms, according to 1994 pmb statistics.

Besides the magazine’s reach and its long shelf-life, the cost-effectiveness of a tv listings ad buy combined with the number of premium positions available may also attract retailers, says Irene Patterson, advertising sales manager for Broadcast Week, the tv listings book for The Globe and Mail.

‘For any sizeable ad, you really own the page and there’s obviously several places to be adjacent to editorial. For somebody who cannot afford the newspaper but who still wants to reach that audience, Broadcast Week is a perfect niche,’ Patterson says.

Broadcast Week comes with the Metro Toronto edition for The Globe and Mail, with a circulation of 180,000 and an Ontario-centric readership that fits the educated, upper income demographic of Globe readers.

About 95% of Broadcast Week’s advertising is retail-driven, says Patterson.

‘By having a split readership, we [attract] a broad range of categories of advertisers: retail, specialty boutique, automotive. Ultimately what we want to do is drive traffic into stores and make the cash register ring,’ she says.

Although some major brands like Campbell Soup have used tv listings books for years, the packaged goods category hasn’t traditionally been a major player in this medium.

According to tv book sellers, packaged goods advertisers tend to shy away from the black and white, non-glossy pages. There is also the fear that an ad placed adjacent to a guide to Tuesday night viewing won’t be seen by people not watching television Tuesday night.

According to STARweek’s Go, that fear is misplaced.

‘It’s the same with tv spots. If you buy commercial time on Wednesday and people aren’t watching the show, they won’t see the advertisement. We’ve done studies that show people repeatedly browse through STARweek cover to cover.

‘Just because you watch tv one day, doesn’t mean you won’t go through it the day you get it,’ he says.

TV times’ Martin concurs.

‘Packaged goods [marketers] have shied away I think because of the perception of what you need from an editorial environment. They’re not seeing the advantage in terms of reach, frequency of exposure, and it’s probably because we haven’t sold them hard enough,’ she says.

Today, Martin and other tv listings advertising sales people are working to convince the packaged goods industry that the medium delivers the right audience for them.

Logically, people are ripe for packaged goods advertising when they’re reading the tv listings says Bey Bohannon, vice-president and group media director at Optimedia, the media management and planning arm for Toronto-based ad agency Foote Cone & Belding.

‘If you think about what people are doing when they’re reading the tv guide; they’re at home, sitting on the couch, thinking about what they’re going to snack on that evening or what movies they’re going to rent tomorrow night.

‘The more natural categories are the ones that tie in with that mood and environment, like snack foods, recreation, and ones that work with heavy tv campaigns,’ Bohannon says.

This spring, TV Guide pioneered the 1994 TV Guide Agency Creative Competition to generate interest in using the medium.

The contest offered $100,000 in TV Guide media space to the agency that could create ads for the tv listings that would work in synergy with a tv campaign.

According to Flynn, the idea for the contest was prompted by two ideas: tv listings publications need a higher profile with the creatives, and if the creative people get behind the medium, there’s a good chance the client will follow suit.

‘When you’re putting the creative together for a television campaign, your thoughts are on television and not necessarily on newsprint promotions that tie in with it,’ he says.

‘It’s a great idea to broaden your tv campaign with this kind of ad, but it’s always been brought to the account executives or buyers directly.’

‘So we thought, if the creative people are excited enough to include it in their ideas for a tv campaign, then it may be more easily accepted by the client,’ he says.

Toronto shop Harrod & Mirlin won the contest with its twist on the ‘Are they chips or are they crackers?’ creative for Christie Brown’s snack food Crispers.

According to Brian Harrod, executive vice-president and creative director at Harrod & Mirlin, linking tv listings creative to a tv spot is a rich idea that needs to be explored more often.

‘It’s a really fun creative opportunity to see the ads bounce off the program. National advertisers tend to run their campaign willy-nilly with one style in mind, and I think that’s unfortunate because this is a way to reach the audience directly and grab their attention,’ he says.

Bill Durnan, president of Toronto-based Durnan Communications, agrees that the tv listings are an under-used medium that needs to be explored.

(Durnan’s campaign for Delta Faucets, done while he was still creative director at MacLaren: Lintas, was one of three honorable mentions in the TV Guide contest.)

‘It doesn’t come top-of-mind, day-in and day-out. But this contest forced you to see that this is a terrific, unique little medium and creatively one should leverage it for all it’s worth.

‘It can add personality and impact in connecting the audience with your tv campaign,’ he says.

There is ample evidence to show that tv listings are near the top of the list of effective direct response vehicles, says Marie Lamontage, media director for Quebec City-based Cossette Communication-Marketing.

This year, Lamontage chose direct response advertising in TV Hebdo as a component of New Brunswick tourism’s campaign in Quebec.

Of all written and telephone responses to a postcard insert and a 1-800 number, TV Hebdo was the second source in terms of generating requests for information, says Lamontagne.

About 20% of calls came from seeing the TV Hebdo ad, and 24% of the pull-out cards.

‘We’re looking more and more at the direct approach with the consumer. We’re trying to get his address, phone number, and see what kind of attitude he has. After that, we can work with him on a one-on-one basis. We say it’s not only the potential of a magazine to generate numbers, but to generate clients,’ she says.

TV Guide readers have built a reputation as an audience that responds to direct response advertising, says Robert Skinner, president of David Geller Associates Canada, the advertising representative for direct marketing business in TV Guide for more than five years.

‘It’s certainly one of the top five direct response advertising vehicles in Canada – it’s a given that tv audience viewers tend to be highly responsive to direct mail,’ says Skinner.

When The Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board wanted to reach the head-of-the-household shopper, it began running a series of direct response ads in TV times, STARweek, and TV Magazine, this past March.

The ads, which feature recipes, a free pork bbq guide, and a free pork thermometer, have generated a commendable response says Peter Daly, marketing manager for the pork marketing board.

‘They’re small ads, but they’ve had a great deal of success: on average, 150 responses a day of combined phone and written responses,’ he says.

Next year, the advertising budget for the pork marketing board is expected to double, owing to a reallocation of funds.

Daly says that with the amount of response from this year’s campaign, tv listings advertising will continue to be a part of the board’s marketing strategy, despite having the revenue to use more expensive media.

TV Guide’s co-op envelope will continue as a part TV Guide’s value-added offers. Introduced in 1992, the envelope, filled with coupons, samples, and product information, gives advertisers another shot at TV Guide’s database. After two mail-outs in 1993, TV Guide will distribute the co-op envelope three times this year, says Flynn.

Experts say the television listings will continue to evolve as an information and entertainment medium and become increasingly important to the network advertisers trying to direct the viewer to one channel in what may be a multi-hundred channel system.

‘The days when print and broadcast can survive alone are over. Your 30-second spot could be wasted as people flip through the channels. The client can buy space on the tv and mirror it with space in a tv listings ad,’ says STARweek’s Go.

‘With a 60-second spot in the next Olympics going for $400,000, some print support would be worth it as a value-added feature,’ he says.

In the past, the tv listings have traditionally worked as a kind of call-to-arms vehicle, a way for retailers to say ‘Come buy this,’ or networks to say ‘Be sure to watch this,’ says Doug Checkeris, group vice-president at Toronto-based Media Buying Services.

In the wake of the fragmentation of television, advertisers may consider investing in more program sponsorship and spend more on television listings advertising to get people to watch, says Checkeris.

‘Increasingly you’ll see tv advertisers getting sponsorship promotions and using tv listings to drive people to their programming. Destination television, for lack of a better term,’ he says.

With the January arrival of the six new specialty services and an uncalculated number of other stations waiting in the wings, four of the major tv listings publications are considering making major changes to their books.

STARweek and TV times are in the process of planning major redesigns, and The Globe and Mail is considering expanding Broadcast Week’s distribution channels.

TV Guide is similarly looking for ways to map out the ever-expanding television universe.

‘It’s getting more and more complex and from an editorial perspective, we’re constantly looking for ways to get the information out to people. We’ve got to – it’s information they’re going to want,’ says Flynn.

In the wake of an influx of infomercial advertising, TV times’ Martin predicts infomercial advertisers will be using the tv listings as a way of drawing people to the program.

‘There’s advertisers spending quite a bit of money producing these infomercials, but if people don’t know when they’re on, then they’re not going to have the viewership. We think we can give them a much greater degree of exposure,’ she says.

The industry will continue to entice the packaged goods industry by promoting the medium’s ability to build frequency for a reasonable cost, and by illustrating the value of complementing television campaigns with tv listings advertisements.

‘The medium has tremendous flexibility that I don’t think has been tapped. There are different components of our product that I don’t think we’ve taken full advantage of, and we’re going forward this year to explain the benefits of the medium,’ Martin says.