Going beyond grey

Canada's oldest mass medium has changed a lot since 1752 when the country's first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, rolled off the presses. With respect to editorial content, newspapers have made huge strides, covering everything from international news to entertainment, cars to...

Canada’s oldest mass medium has changed a lot since 1752 when the country’s first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, rolled off the presses. With respect to editorial content, newspapers have made huge strides, covering everything from international news to entertainment, cars to cooking. But for advertisers, it’s largely been the same old story.

Until recently, that is. A re-energized competitive Canadian newspaper market and the birth of media conglomerates have inspired a new era of customized advertising opportunities ranging from specialty products to cross-platform programs.

Beyond the old grey page, newspapers have introduced attention-getting devices such as Post-it Notes, belly bands (cardboard bands wrapped around the middle of the newspaper), polybags, and sampling, along with non-standard ads such as gatefolds, flexform and shadow ads, and a host of customized delivery options. Newspapers are also working closely with their sister companies in online, television and magazine media, to offer advertisers tailored programs that better target consumers.

The Globe and Mail, for instance, prides itself on going that extra mile for clients – even if that means serving up campaigns on a silver platter.

Shannon McPeak, The Globe’s vice-president of national sales, says for one client, the paper hired 20 young adults wearing custom-printed T-shirts and holding silver trays to hand out samples of the client’s product along with a copy of the day’s paper.

‘In another case we delivered – again on a silver tray – a sample of a new software product to a group of selected corporate head offices in Toronto. The client had a list of very important customers he wanted to touch personally and didn’t want to take the chance that they would miss the ad.’

McPeak says The Globe has also gone beyond the usual for clients looking to target a small group of key customers. These ventures have included golf tournaments and customized courier delivery of product samples with The Globe. The paper has also done direct mail extensions, she says, sending the client’s message and personal invitation to Report on Business Magazine’s Top 1,000 list.

These special added-value programs are not something The Globe does every day – they depend on the advertiser’s investment in the paper. McPeak says she would expect the client to invest at least $200,000 in advertising for customized delivery. For promotions and special events, she estimates roughly $500,000 for a national advertiser and $250,000 for a retail client.

Over the past few years, The Globe has successfully brought advertisers into its online, specialty television and magazine extensions. And now that it’s part of Bell Globemedia, there are further opportunities for Globe advertisers looking to add Sympatico/Lycos and CTV to the mix.

‘On the multi-media side, we’ve already been putting together packages for traditional newspaper advertisers who want to brand or extend audience reach in other media,’ McPeak says. ‘Of the six or seven programs we’ve done, they’ve all been different and all very customized.’

Not to be outdone, The Toronto Star also offers a number of customized advertising products.

One is the paper pocket, a colourful pouch carrying the advertiser’s message that envelops the newspaper at its fold.

Another is the info patch, an insert stuck to the front of the paper like a Post-it Note, but able to fold out and present a more complete message.

‘Traditionally, the leading national advertising categories have embraced specialty products,’ says Mark Spencer, director of advertising for the Torstar Daily Newspaper Group, ‘but you can count on the fact that if there’s a new product or sales message or event, an advertiser is probably looking at unique ways to get that message out.’

Still, Spencer cautions that while novelty buys are good for directing eyes to mainstream ads, they will never replace the need for great creative in newspaper advertising.

With home delivery only on Sunday, The Toronto Sun’s offerings of specialty products are somewhat limited but Gottfried Wirth, vice-president of advertising sales, says that doesn’t stop the sales team from being creative within those constraints.

To promote the launch of The Building Box, for example, the team put together a package that included belly bands, a four-page gatefold broadsheet insert and – the crowning touch – balloons attached to boxes in the area around the store.

‘We also do a lot of customized newspapers where an advertiser can get papers with a customized front page to hand out at their grand opening or other special event.’

Wirth says polybags, belly bands and Post-its are extremely popular with the Sunday Sun – particularly with fast food companies, because Post-its advertising the restaurant’s number can be peeled off the front of the paper and stuck beside the phone or on the refrigerator.

There are also special effects that can be achieved with inks today that weren’t possible before, says Wirth – although some innovations aren’t as successful as others.

‘Lots of things have come and gone, like scented inks. I remember when I worked out West, a supermarket did a Mother’s Day ad with floral scented ink. The entire building smelled like a garden,’ he says. ‘That was the last time I remember anyone using a scented ink.’

Canada’s youngest national paper, the Toronto-based National Post, offers standard items such as Post-it Notes, polybags, inserts, flexform and shadow ads, along with regional delivery options, but it puts a bigger emphasis on special reports and joint venture sections.

The joint venture sections, while written by the Post’s editorial department, focus on a client’s special interest and are based on information supplied by the client.

‘Joint ventures might range from National Engineering Week to the Association of Welders,’ says Veronica Williams, vice-president of advertising. ‘We try to assess the client’s needs and find better solutions by offering these tailored properties.’

Media buyers who have used newspaper specialty products for their clients have been generally happy with the results, but they caution that such novelties are usually part of multi-media campaigns, so there’s no way to measure the contribution of a Post-it or belly band individually.

Carey Lewis, vice-president, media director at OMD Canada, says that specialty newspaper executions should be more results-driven to allow media practitioners to validate their choices. He adds that agencies should also be looking for creative ways of using the space within newspapers – with flexform ads and the interesting use of colour.

He points to an ad for Daimler Chrysler, whereby OMD bought an ad for Jeep that appeared to be churning up the stock numbers in its wake. The ad also tied into the editorial.

‘To break through you have to do something different,’ he says.

When Luke Moore, media director at MacLaren McCann West, moved to Calgary from Toronto’s M2 Universal, he found that Alberta offers a smaller selection of newspaper specialties, with only Post-it Notes, inserts and a limited amount of polybagging available.

‘For every client, budget is always a consideration, and these products aren’t cheap,’ he says. ‘A Post-it can cost $120 per thousand and is limited as to what it can say. It can direct you to something within the paper and works well if the message is short and concise.’

While novelties may be lagging out West, Moore is finding that cross-platform campaigns are getting easier, mainly thanks to CanWest Global Communications.

‘On behalf of the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, we do a lot of newspaper, [online] banners and use a lot of Global TV. So we use the three primary vehicles they represent.’

Moore says he’s in the process of setting up a joint newspaper-TV promotion for the Edmonton 2001 Motor Show with Global TV and The Edmonton Journal. ‘What CanWest has been able to bring to the table as a combined force has really helped to make things easier.’

Also in this report:

- Upheaval presents challenges, opportunities: Marketing efforts are way up as newspapers confront make-or-break time p.B1

- Media planners show there’s more to newspaper than you think p.B5

- A medium for all messages: Papers an ideal ad vehicle for info-to-image bridge p.B6