Media buyers foresee problems with Thomson sale

With Hollinger, Quebecor and Torstar the likeliest beneficiaries of the sale of Thomson Newspaper Group's daily and community newspaper holdings, several media buyers have expressed concern that the increased concentration of ownership won't benefit Canadian advertisers. Rising ad rates aside, buyers...

With Hollinger, Quebecor and Torstar the likeliest beneficiaries of the sale of Thomson Newspaper Group’s daily and community newspaper holdings, several media buyers have expressed concern that the increased concentration of ownership won’t benefit Canadian advertisers.

Rising ad rates aside, buyers say there are other, more insidious problems that may arise with the consolidation of several properties under one owner.

Mariam Hoosen, vice-president, strategy director of Toronto-based media management company Starcom, says buyers might be forced to consider other media if they’re compelled to buy several newspapers within a chain in order to get a decent rate.

‘We try to be fair, but if a package is imposed on us…it’s not responsible for us to suggest it to our clients.’

In addition, Hoosen says organizational ‘synergies’ – shared content and a consequent reduction in editorial staff – threaten to reduce local coverage, a strength that has always made local papers attractive to advertisers.

‘If we want a national presence, we go into the National Post, The Globe and Mail, or magazines. But we often want to have insertions in local media that project (our client) as good citizens in that market as well.’

One of the most prized Thomson papers under scrutiny by suitors is The Winnipeg Free Press, which has three times the market penetration of its daily rival The Winnipeg Sun, a tabloid in the Quebecor chain.

Margot Brown, vice-president of client services and media for McKim Communications in Winnipeg, says the Free Press plays an important role in the city, in a region where there are fewer papers per community than are found in Ontario.

‘With all these changes, it will be interesting to see how much of the community aspect will be maintained and how much lost,’ she says.

While many are concerned about the spectre of one Canadian newspaper publishing company having too much control, David Cairns, president of Toronto-based media management firm Carat Cairns, says there are plenty of opportunities to be had in working with a corporation that has multiple media holdings.

The Thomson Corporation is divesting itself of all of its newspaper holdings – 75 non-daily and 55 daily newspapers in Canada and U.S. – except for The Globe and Mail. The company plans to concentrate on electronic and information services such as those it has built around the Globe brand –, ROBTV,, and the new job site, a joint venture with Torstar.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group