Cheap tricks

Since the dawn of the printing press, newspaper has been a strong, stalwart and reliable vehicle to convey advertisers' messages - so much so that, especially in this era of cyber-snazzy new mediums, it's hard to imagine that there are any new tricks of the trade for this old workhorse.
Yet, a close look reveals that there are, in fact, some creative new twists being executed in the pages of our newspapers, due in large part to the tight economy and clients' quest to reap maximum value for minimum price.

Since the dawn of the printing press, newspaper has been a strong, stalwart and reliable vehicle to convey advertisers’ messages – so much so that, especially in this era of cyber-snazzy new mediums, it’s hard to imagine that there are any new tricks of the trade for this old workhorse.

Yet, a close look reveals that there are, in fact, some creative new twists being executed in the pages of our newspapers, due in large part to the tight economy and clients’ quest to reap maximum value for minimum price.

‘There is a lot of client-level pressure through the agencies to get the best possible value out of advertising budgets, and that flows down to media,’ confirms Jane Willis, senior account director at the National Post. ‘So we have to be flexible and open to [negotiation].’

Shannon McPeak, VP, national advertising sales at the Globe and Mail says that what’s currently top-of-mind for clients and agencies is not so much about ‘rates’ and ‘deals,’ but about, ‘getting good value for the dollar. Agencies and clients are trying to be as strategic and impactful as they can for the same investment as in the past.’

Here then are some recent examples of newspaper advertising that made particularly good use of space, got noticed, and brought value to the client.

A.I.C. Funds:

‘Found money’ in fragments

‘Buy. Hold. And Prosper.’ It’s not just the company’s slogan, but also its fundamental philosophy, as well as its key brand identifier. The words, along with other pithy slogans, are currently on billboards, television and in newspaper, with the latter representing at least 50% of the campaign’s budget over the last year.

A.I.C. hadn’t advertised in a significant way in 11 years. In December 2000, it began an awareness campaign and, buoyed by strong results, in September 2001 it continued with more aggressive newspaper advertising and added in 10-second television ads along with billboard.

The goal was to differentiate A.I.C. ‘It all starts from the brand, and the company philosophy of buy and hold,’ says Lorne Kirshenbaum of Toronto agency Brandworks. ‘We then added the word ‘prosper.’ It’s a different way of managing one’s funds and is very focused on buying excellent companies and holding on.’ The message was a simple one, and did not require a lot of the explanation, performance listings or legal disclaimers that often clutter financial advertising.

Using the Globe and Mail, the National Post, major regional dailies and trade papers, Brandworks applied a traditional use of space with page-dominant ads to explain some details of the A.I.C. philosophy, along with some banner ads.

Then it got into more tactical applications, such as islands in the middle of the full-page mutual fund listings. ‘An island is not particularly innovative,’ admits Kirshenbaum, ‘but we think our messages were, and we took our core difference and the space and integrated them.’ Some of those island messages were: ‘Just Think. You Don’t Have to Be Reading This Page,’ ‘Stop Watching This Page,’ and ‘Ignore the Market.’

Next, Brandworks decided that the company’s simplicity of message and the resulting T-shirt-type slogans the agency had devised would be perfectly suited to newspaper fragments – those extra odd spaces that usually get filled with newspaper house ads.

‘We made up all these little ads in different sizes and went to the Globe and said, ‘Here is a weekly budget, you can spend this much, not more, and just salt the paper with as many of these space fillers as you can. (The Globe was the main participant in the fragments, with the National Post participating to a lesser degree.) We negotiated a great rate – for them, it’s found money.’

Besides ‘Buy. Hold. And Prosper,’ the messages in the filler ads were ‘Ignore the Market,’ ‘Pay Less Tax,’ ‘Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda. (Not a sound investment strategy)’ and ‘Want Off the Roller Coaster?’

Says Brandworks’ account director Tracy Chong: ‘They were very simple messages that were branded, so having several ads appearing throughout the paper every day was a good use of our budget, particularly when there were also larger ads running in the paper.’

The newspaper medium also showed its strong suit when A.I.C./Brandworks responded rapidly to a Globe and Mail headline that stated Nortel stocks were way down and TD Bank stocks were soaring. The very next day, the A.I.C. ad featured a reprint of the Globe headline along with a slice of A.I.C. CIO Michael Lee Chin’s chairman’s address from the previous year – explaining why he wasn’t investing in Nortel, but continued to invest in TD Bank.

‘We have been delighted with this campaign,’ says Stephen Clarke, VP marketing for A.I.C. ‘Since November 2000, there has been a dramatic turnaround – the company went from net redemption to positive net sales, to leading the industry in sales some months over the last year. This was not just because of the campaign, but advertising played a very important role in getting our ‘Buy. Hold. And Prosper.’ message out there, which has been key to our turnaround.’

Altamira Financial Services:

Blocking the competition

Newspaper is the dominant medium for Altamira and previous campaigns had Altamira using a newspaper strategy consisting of banner advertising, particularly in the National Post and the Globe and Mail.

‘My problem with this is that there are many banner ads on any given day and pretty soon they become wallpaper and hard to differentiate from one another,’ says Scott Stewart, senior media planner at Toronto-based Wolf Group Advertising.

Planning for the current fiscal year, the agency and client developed a two-tiered strategy: to use newspaper space as a branding tool and to create a high-impact module to reach aggressive financial growth-seekers.

‘A lot of financial advertising seems to follow a full-page or vertical-page dominant format, so our challenge was to come up with something that popped and fit the creative requirements of the message,’ says Stewart.

The team decided on a quarter-page double-truck ad to run predominantly in the centre-page spread of the two national newspapers’ business sections on a weekly basis during fall 2001 and winter 2002, along with running in selected dailies across the country. Because of the duration of the campaign and the lead time given the papers, Stewart says, ‘we were accommodated in a very efficient manner.’

‘This represented very good value for us,’ says director of marketing and communications at Altamira, Francis D’Andrade, adding that although results from the campaign have been difficult to measure, client response has been very favourable.

‘It was a unique use of space for our category and therefore has more impact. This also allowed us to appear more often in the major papers than if we had gone with a full-page ad or double-page spread.’

Indeed, says Stewart, ‘The quarter-page unit allowed for approximately one spread per week [for the cost of] one double-page spread per month.

‘More time is spent on the page due to its placement within editorial and it was much more economical than a full-page or double-page spread, that although dominant, might simply be a page that gets flipped.’

‘The truck was clever on the part of the agency,’ says the National Post’s Willis. ‘What it has tended to do in a rather small space is shut out other advertisers because it goes right across the page through the middle of the gutter, so you can’t put another full-page opposite – and we wouldn’t put another big ad for another mutual fund company nearby. As far as budget, it’s a very good use of space.’