Supplements attract `involved’ readers

Newspaper supplements and special reports offer advertisers the chance to put loads of product information in the hands of their target audience in a specific context.Promoting a productAdvertising supplements, as opposed to special sections, are promotional sections paid for by one...

Newspaper supplements and special reports offer advertisers the chance to put loads of product information in the hands of their target audience in a specific context.

Promoting a product

Advertising supplements, as opposed to special sections, are promotional sections paid for by one company, or several companies working co-operatively, and are usually devoted to promoting one product, event, technology, or cause.

A special section, on the other hand, is a forum for independent editorial on a specific subject, aimed at getting companies with related products or services to advertise within it.

One of the great benefits of both is that they attract consumers who are interested in the products or ideas being written about by virtue of their picking up the supplement or section.

‘Advertisers know that they might not meet our entire audience by advertising through [supplements and special sections,] but they can be assured they are reaching an involved consumer,’ says Grant Crosbie, vice-president of advertising at The Globe and Mail.

Elena Dunn, national advertising manager at Pacific Press, publisher of The Vancouver Sun and The Province, points out another benefit:

‘I think the integrity and reputation of the newspaper give a halo effect to the advertising, even the advertorial material,’ Dunn says.

Claudia Wutherich, manager of special reports at The Financial Post, says sponsored supplements are particularly effective for those companies that do not feel they have received satisfactory media coverage.

‘An advertising supplement can provide you with all the advertising you want,’ Wutherich says.

‘It must be [identified] as an advertising supplement, but at least you can get your point of view across,’ she says.

The Globe and Mail calls its supplements ‘high impact’ in reference to their cost efficiency.

Priced ‘economically’

‘We usually price them quite economically,’ says Cathy Wilson, advertising sales manager at the Globe. ‘For the price of four pages of advertising, they are getting the impact of eight.

‘If it’s an eight-page section, [the company] would probably run four pages of advertising, and we would run four pages of editorial, which would be conveying any information [the company] wanted to communicate to our readers, but we mark those as special advertising sections,’ Wilson says.

Experts say advertising supplements are particularly useful when companies are launching a line of products, or are undergoing a major repositioning, which they want to explain in detail.

Intel Canada is running two supplements in the Globe on Oct. 26 and Nov. 23 to push its computer microprocessor in response to competitive pressure from the PowerPC chip, co-operatively developed by Motorola, ibm and Apple.

‘Any company using Intel is a potential advertiser in this section,’ Wilson says.

‘The people at Intel contacted all of their partners and asked them if they were interested,’ she says. ‘Many of them were, and Intel donated co-op advertising as well.’

‘Advertisers are thrilled’

‘It’s a very healthy section. The advertisers are thrilled. Singly, they couldn’t create the impact, but, together, they can create a very high profile of the products that use Intel inside.’

Doug Cooper, marketing manager for Intel Canada, says the supplement fulfills the company’s needs perfectly.

‘We realized there was a lot of interest in Intel-related technology, so we were looking for something that is a win-win siutation for the reader and the advertisers,’ Cooper says.

‘This gives advertisers a special rate, and the editorial supports the messages in their advertising,’ he says.

The style of the advertising supplements can vary tremendously, but they share the common feature of being designed to attract attention.

They are often colorful, and use graphics extensively.

Sometimes, they are delivered to the paper, which then merely distributes them, but they are often organized by the paper’s advertising department.

At The Financial Post, copy for sponsored supplements is generally written by writers working for the paper.

‘Sometimes, we’ll use people who are hired here full-time, and contract them out like freelancers, and sometimes, we hire freelance writers from the industry who are specialists in computers or in photography or whatever,’ Wutherich says.

‘[The stories] stay within the framework and integrity and the quality of writing of The Financial Post, but it will be put in a positive light,’ she says.

The issue of editorial integrity is less of an issue in special sections, which, for the most part, use copy produced independently by the editorial department, with some information, but not the point of view, supplied by the advertisers.

‘At The Globe and Mail, we call it supported editorial, but it’s not `buy an ad and get an article,’ ‘ says Bonnie Graham, project manager of special reports at the Globe.

‘The editorial lines of a section are set well before the advertising,’ Graham says.

Generally, when companies advertise in special sections, the benefits are that advertising will be seen by a targetted audience, and that the life of the advertising is extended because people who read the section will often keep it.

There is, however, no guarantee that the editorial copy will support an advertiser’s products.

‘If you really are squeaky clean, then you’ll have squeaky clean editorial written about you,’ Wutherich says.

‘If you’ve got something that you don’t necessarily want somebody to find out, well, that might come out too,’ she says.

Like a trade

Wutherich likens the Financial Post’s brand of special sections to trade magazines, but without all the technical jargon.

‘We basically take the trade magazine idea and put it into a business perspective,’ she says.

‘We blow the subject up into the big picture of what a ceo or a manager or an owner is going to have to know without having to know the technical aspects.’

Other newspapers publish more general interest special sections.

Marie-Anne Colucci, special sections manager at The Gazette in Montreal, says that when she started at the paper 17 years ago, it was publishing only about six special sections per year, usually surrounding specific events such as bridal shows, sports events, and Christmas.

This year, it will be publishing almost 70.

‘They’ve developed quite a bit here,’ says Colucci, whose department produced an award-winning recreation supplement at the beginning of the ski season last year.

She says ideas for supplements come from a variety of sources, including the advertisers, and sometimes, it is just a matter of deciding what topics are hot at any given moment.

Check stats

Before going ahead to solicit advertisers, Colucci refers to NADBank statistics to make sure the topic will be marketable.

[NADBank is an annual survey by the Newspaper Marketing Bureau that provides data on the reading and buying habits of daily newspaper readers.]

Assuming those are favorable, the advertising department looks to the advertising community for support.

Colucci says if the section has been inspired by the anniversary of a business, hospital or other large organization, the process is simplified.

Using the subject’s letterhead, the newspaper begins to solicit suppliers and other related businesses.

The suppliers want to capitalize on the goodwill that comes with a congratulatory advertisement.

In 1988, Colucci was the founding president of the Newspaper Special Section Network, an organization of about 60 newspapers across North America, including five in Canada, that meet once a year to exchange ideas.

It is Colucci’s opinion that special sections are an effective form of advertising.

Her one criticism is that newspapers do not take enough advantage of the advertising potential of the supplements because they do not track their success and failures as advertising vehicles.

‘I find a lot of newspapers are quite archaic,’ Colucci says.

‘They still work on linage and not ad revenue,’ she says. ‘They look at the quantity of pages and don’t take into account expenses. You have to look at the bottom line.

‘If a supplement isn’t profitable, we drop it for the next year.’

Special sections at many papers are usually initiated by the editorial departments

‘They decide on what they think is a good section,’ says Andrew Go, advertising director at The Toronto Star.

‘Then they go to advertising, and say, `Do you think you can sell advertising to support that section?’ ‘ Go says.

‘The fall and winter, Valentine’s Day, country living, Christmas – those are some of the ones the advertisers know we can definitely get,’ he says.

Attracting advertisers for special sections with subjects that fall outside the realm of the traditional can be hard.

Wanted coverage

A section on virtual reality in The Financial Post had to be cancelled when too many companies wanted to have stories written about them in return for advertising.

Wutherich says they were not willing to gamble on the effectiveness of this type of directed advertising without getting the payoff of a story.

‘It’s such a new way of thinking that there are a lot of advertisers who are saying `Oh, this is wonderful, maybe next year. Put one out first and we’ll see how it does.’ ‘ she says.

There are some advertisers, however, particularly in computer and computer-related industries, that are already reaping the benefits of special section advertising.

‘[Special sections] provide us with an excellent editorial environment through which to reach our customers in a targetted way,’ says Ann Sauve, marketing communications manager at Compaq Canada, a frequent print advertiser.

Whenever we can, we advertise in such supplements,’ Sauve says.

‘Appropriate environment’

‘We are interested in entertaining opportunities when we plan to advertise in a newspaper and there is a supplement that provides us with an appropriate environment,’ she says.

‘We’re looking for relevancy.

‘With advertising dollars, it’s very important to meet your audience in the most targetted and cost-efficient way, and one of those more qualitative ways is through newspaper supplements.’

Sauve says that special sections are gaining more credibility as time goes on, and consumers are using them more and more as a source of information.

‘People have begun looking at them on an ongoing basis,’ she says. ‘They recognize them as a very credible and relevant environment.’

Honda Canada, the major sponsor of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Run for the Cure, recently took advantage of The Globe and Mail’s intent to publish a supplement to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

‘We have a small newspaper component to the budget,’ says Stephen Wendt, Honda account director at Harrison Young Pesonen & Newell, Honda’s media buying operation.

‘The [supplement] is a bit of a luxury, but, at this rate, the environment, the timing – everything was right,’ Wendt says.

‘There are many times when a supplement is not right, but this one was within our grasp.,’ he says. ‘It just made sense.’