Flying blind

So what have you done for us lately? Look, don't get us wrong. The Canadian newspaper industry has been very progressive about creating a greater role for advertisers and buyers in the management of NADbank, its key research resource. In the...

So what have you done for us lately? Look, don’t get us wrong. The Canadian newspaper industry has been very progressive about creating a greater role for advertisers and buyers in the management of NADbank, its key research resource. In the past, we couldn’t expect answers to hard questions. But now, with representation from the buyer and advertiser communities on NADbank’s committees, those hard questions are being asked and answered. And for this, we commend the daily newspaper publishing community.

But we need more.

Our end goal, in all the media analyses that we do, is to understand the relationships that consumers have with the media we recommend. And as newspaper buyers, we have questions that simply are not addressed by NADbank in its current form. Some of these relate broadly to the medium, some relate to opportunities offered by specific newspapers or groups of newspapers. Most of them are reasonable and, with the right research, can be answered.

Let’s review a few of these questions:

Ad Size and Colour: These are fundamental issues that affect both cost and readership. But to what extent?

The last comprehensive research that we’ve seen on ad size and use of colour dates back to the 1970s. It’s reasonable to assume that the world has changed since then. Newspapers certainly have: In the ’70s, few had reliable colour; some had none at all.

Does colour have the same impact today that it did then? Is spot colour still an improvement, in the reader’s eyes, over black and white? What norms in readership impact can be expected from a change in ad size or colour? Does a half-page ad generate half the readership of a full page? These are essential questions, and we need to be able to answer them with up-to-date research.

Positioning: Positioning is another fundamental – one that has never been adequately addressed through research. Many dailies offer front-page or front-of-section banner positions at premium rates. They offer page A3 positions, stock island ads and editorial adjacencies. These positions seem to make sense – but increasingly, buyers are being asked to provide quantitative evidence to support our recommendations. And frankly, we’d like to be able to do that.

Is the limited amount of premium inventory something for which we as buyers should compete and pay unreasonably for? Perhaps. It’s certainly done in outdoor and television (although those media also offer "efficiency" buys). But in newspaper, for the most part, we just don’t know to what extent the reader notices or is exposed to premium-positioned ads. This would be valuable information to have – and in our estimation, it’s incumbent upon the newspapers selling these types of positions to start making it available.

Day of Week: Remember "Food Day"? That’s Wednesday, for those of you who are new to the business. That used to be the day that grocery chains all inserted their flyers into dailies. And as a result, many newspapers developed complementary Food sections on Wednesdays, to provide space for ROP grocery advertising and other ads aimed at the food buyer. But is Food Day still relevant, given that most food flyers are now distributed through other avenues?

Thursday, it seems, has become "Computer/Information Technology Day" – at least in Toronto, where three of the four dailies now offer special computing sections. Is that truly an effective vehicle for advertisers? And what about those advertisers who avoid Mondays, because of the relatively light business coverage, and the absence of stock market reports? Is that a wise decision – or is it possible that they might benefit from the diminished clutter in Monday editions?

A couple of key issues emerge from all of the above:

Readership by Day of Week: Circulation is one thing, but what about readership by demographic group, or even by area of interest (principal grocery shoppers, car buyers, MOPEs, and so on)? These are our clients’ consumers: How are they interacting with their newspapers on a day-of-week basis?

Sectional Readership: This is a biggie. Every broadsheet in the country produces multiple sections every day. So why does almost every media planner request Page A3 with no premium for most of the ads that they book? Obviously, they believe that Section A is the best-read section in the paper. But are they mistaken?

It’s our belief that the larger papers do indeed have the readership data to support day-of-week and sectional preference decisions, but they’re afraid that releasing this data would result in more aggressive negotiation by agencies seeking to pay less for lesser-read sections.

That could happen, all right. But wouldn’t it also help to substantiate the argument that we should pay more for better-read pages and sections? This would be particularly important for clients seeking to optimize reach of a paper’s total readership.

By the same token, charging a lesser rate for lesser-read sections might help newspapers build a case for increased frequency by existing advertisers – and might help expand their franchise by bringing new advertisers into the fold.

FSI Research: More and more clients – retailers in particular – distribute large numbers of freestanding inserts nationally each week. And many have turned from dailies to community papers, to take advantage of the opportunity to target more discretely to high-propensity households. Because they can’t accommodate more tightly defined geographic distribution patterns, a lot of daily newspapers are missing the boat on this one.

If the daily newspaper industry ever did choose to put a focus on this area, they’d be satisfying a pent-up need – and the payout would probably be well worth the effort.

So there you have it. Research is becoming the great equalizer in our deployment of media. Some of the research discussed here is, in fact, being done – it’s just not being made available to the buying community. And some isn’t being done, even though it clearly should be.

The onus shouldn’t be on advertisers and agencies to fund this kind of research. It’s up to the medium to take on this responsibility in order to sell itself – and to accept the consequences, both good and bad, that this effort will yield.

So how about it, folks?

Bruce Baumann is vice-president, research director with M2 Universal Communications Management in Toronto.

Also in this report:

- NADbank building on solid base: Newspaper readership study evolving in dynamic market p.B18

- The war: views from the sidelines: The battle of the national dailies is causing other papers to redesign, rethink their news delivery p.B20

- Spotlight on Newspaper Creative p.B23

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.