NADbank building on solid base

Anne Ruta is executive director of Toronto-based NADbank. Given the heightened attention that the newspaper war has focused on the annual NADbank readership study, Strategy figured it was time to check in and find out what's up with the Canadian newspaper...

Anne Ruta is executive director of Toronto-based NADbank. Given the heightened attention that the newspaper war has focused on the annual NADbank readership study, Strategy figured it was time to check in and find out what’s up with the Canadian newspaper industry’s principal research body. This is Ruta’s report.

It has been a tumultuous year for newspapers – and for newspaper research – in Canada. A little more than 18 months ago, a new national daily was launched into a fragmented media marketplace, and consumers were exposed to one of the most fiercely aggressive campaigns to build newspaper readership that this country has ever seen.

The result was a significantly more dynamic newspaper marketplace. The results of the NADbank 1999 Survey – the first to include the new National Post – were awaited anxiously by the industry. With so much at stake, NADbank chose to postpone the release of the study in order to complete a review, so that our members could be assured that the data was, indeed, an accurate reflection of the marketplace. And as our review confirmed, the survey results reflected a wildly volatile market.

Newspaper readership research in Canada has evolved and grown along with the newspaper industry, and the needs of the buying community.

In 1997, NADbank became a tripartite organization. Where our membership once consisted solely of daily newspapers, it now encompasses advertisers and agencies as well.

Today, our expanded board of directors includes a number of leading Canadian advertising and media executives, who motivate the organization to consider future market directions and the changing role of media buying. And, with their support, NADbank is now able to source membership fees from a growing roster of agencies and advertisers, to provide funding for the study and other new initiatives.

Two and a half years ago, NADbank’s technical committee began the task of shaping what was already a comprehensive survey into a piece of leading-edge media research.

As an organization, our mandate is to measure accurately the size, quality and characteristics of the medium; NADbank, however, has expanded beyond this key role, and now provides its advertiser and agency members with information on consumer buying patterns, lifestyles and media habits, across a wide range of product and retail categories.

NADbank 1999 includes readership data on a total of 60 dailies in 40 urban markets, representing 92% of the total daily newspaper circulation in Canada. In all, 26 markets now have product data that can be directly linked to newspaper readership data.

As a rule, newspapers have funded half-samples each year, to provide buyers with larger samples than would otherwise be financially feasible on an annual basis. Last year, in response to the buying community’s need for larger and more current samples, three markets conducted full samples: Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa – all of which now have data on the National Post.

In addition, a supplementary database with aggregated 1999 data provides members with readership information on the National Post, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, the Torstar Daily Newspaper Group and Sun Media papers for 16 English markets and three major regions across Canada.

In order to standardize newspaper research in Canada and bring smaller newspapers into the study, NADbank also introduced its "Readership Only" study in 1999, which covers markets with populations of less than 150,000. A total of 13 new NADbank members participated in this study.

To provide added value to members, NADbank has formed partnerships with Compusearch and Generation 5, thereby making it possible to do geo-demographic and psychographic analysis with the NADbank product data.

Currently, NADbank conducts its study annually. However, as the economy changes and markets grow more dynamic, there may well be a need to provide data more often. So in the fall of 1999, NADbank introduced a second "Readership Only" study. The goal was to gauge the level of interest in more frequent measurement of dailies, and to provide updated information on the highly competitive Toronto market. The methodology was identical to the spring survey, and the results directly comparable.

With this strong base to build upon, NADbank has some ambitious plans for 2000.

Because it’s important to maintain continuity in an annual study, changes can be difficult to introduce. Still, it is essential that we continually evaluate our product – both to assure ourselves that it measures what it’s supposed to measure, and to make certain that it keeps pace with the changing media landscape.

A technical review of the NADbank Study during the summer of 1999 confirmed that it continues to meet our criteria for accurate and reliable data. At the same time, however, the review highlighted a number of issues for further consideration – and as a result, changes have been made to the methodology, thereby establishing a more stable research platform.

The 2000 study will include 66 daily papers in 46 markets across Canada. Product data will be available for 26 markets.

Given the breadth and complexity of the NADbank study, it is essential that we continue to work with our members to ensure that they understand how to use it effectively. Through presentations and training, we endeavour to keep our members across Canada up to date on any enhancements made to the study.

Ongoing dialogue with our software suppliers, meanwhile, helps to ensure that the study is readily accessible and the software easy to use.

The NADbank Web site ( offers extensive information on newspaper readership. And designated "members only" areas within the site provide NADbank members with access to even more detailed data.

Looking forward, there are many new opportunities upon which the NADbank study may choose to capitalize. Some of the possibilities we are considering include: larger sample sizes, more frequent measurement in the major markets, ongoing expansion of the product survey, a focus on teen readership, more detailed sectional readership information and expanded multi-media data. As time passes, the study will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the advertising industry.

Also in this report:

- Flying blind: Without knowing the answers to some pretty fundamental questions about newspaper readership, media buyers are forced to make their decisions based on assumptions, not facts. And that’s not good enough, says one expert. p.B16

- 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

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