‘The targets love it’
“Newspaper people are NOT the target,” says John Kimball, the senior vice president of the NAA. “While we would like them to love the campaign, it is more important that the targets love it. And apparently they do.”
The targets of John’s campaign to reinforce the “Value of Newspapers” are advertising agencies deciding where to vector their media dollars.
But the new campaign, whose first ad features a monocle-wearing, middle-age alien with a passing resemblance to E.T., sparked dismay among several publishers. They share my concern, expressed here, that the image fails to achieve the NAA’s stated objective of convincing advertisers that newspapers are a “contemporary, progressive and dynamic” medium.
“Blech,” wrote Mark Van Patten, the general manager of the Bowling (KY) Daily News, whose paper is not a member of the NAA. “Thank you for writing about the poorly conceived NAA ads and offering an alternative campaign.”
Mark was referring to mocked-up ad I included in my original post on the umpteen-million dollar blitz scheduled to launch in April. In response to requests from Mark and others, I am making the ad available to any newspaper agreeing to make a modest contribution to a charity benefiting children in its community. If you want a copy of the ad, click here for details.
The NAA campaign alarms many of us because the caricature dominating the ad inadvertently reinforces the negatives that have caused a growing number of advertisers to steer away from newspapers.
“While some of your comments might be accurate if the purpose of the initiative was to increase readership of newspapers by consumers, this campaign is aimed solely and exclusively at advertisers, their agencies and planners,” says John in an email reproduced below.
“This is a B2B campaign and is very different from a consumer campaign,” he continues “It’s the target customer we need to focus on; what their current perceptions are, and what message we need to deliver to improve and/or change that perception. The ad concept you offered is one for a consumer campaign and not one aimed at reappraisal of newspaper media by advertisers.”
The fatal flaw in John’s argument is that the success of the NAA campaign depends largely on newspapers running the E.T. ads for free. Last year, says John, more than 1,000 papers ran some or all of the ads in a similar program to promote the value of the medium. The donated ad space was valued at some $70 million by industry experts.
Because the campaign will run in the ordinary columns of participating newspapers, the ads will be seen not only by the hip and happening kids who actually buy media but also by the hundreds of millions of regular readers who aren’t being “targeted” by the NAA and, therefore, aren’t in on the gag.
Marketing consultants working for the newspaper industry – who are precisely the sort of savvy guys targeted by the NAA – have misgivings about the campaign, too.
“Can you understand what the NAA is thinking?” asked one consultant, whose identity I am withholding because his continued livelihood depends on not nibbling the knuckles that feed him. “Last year it was a negative, ‘We’re not this’ campaign. This year, aliens from outer space read the newspaper? Good grief!”
“The NAA campaign is almost as lame as their first one,” said a second consultant recollecting the Monty-Python style theme of last year’s effort. “But don’t quote me because I have to deal with the NAA.”
John says this year’s ads won high acclaim in testing among “dozens” of media buyers who compose the intended audience. But I say campaign flunks the test of common sense.
Following is John's full response. It is reprinted in full with his permission.
Thank you for recognizing the introduction (it doesn’t launch until April) of the newspaper campaign. For clarity, the campaign is not just the one ad or one creative treatment. There are five ads in the series – three that will be available for newspapers at the April launch and two others that will be available later in the year.
While some of your comments might be accurate if the purpose of the initiative was to increase readership of newspapers by consumers, this campaign is aimed solely and exclusively at advertisers, their agencies and planners. Whether we agree or not, they think people are not coming to newspapers or their websites and that the industry is in some kind of audience free-fall. Nothing could be further from the truth as you “sort of” suggest.
To that end I point out the following:
:: This is a B2B campaign and is very different from a consumer campaign. It’s the target customer we need to focus on; what their current perceptions are; and what message we need to deliver to improve and/or change that perception. The ad concept you offered is one for a consumer campaign and not one aimed at reappraisal of newspaper media by advertisers.
:: So, assuming we have a sound strategic direction we also need true professionals to help execute. The Martin Agency is one of the leading creative and strategic ad agencies in the United States - (according to Advertising Age one of the Top 5) and has clients including GEICO, UPS, and now Wal-Mart with huge budgets and expertise as well. When you retain a firm for their expertise you should trust their judgment. We do.
:: The Martin Agency wanted to test the impact of the proposed campaign which is why dozens of targeted agency execs have provided feedback. Almost all of the feedback has been outstanding yet we have tweaked based on their comments.
:: Newspaper people are NOT the target. While we would like them to love the campaign, it is more important that the targets love it…. And apparently they do. Our job at NAA is to build the compelling case for newspapers to run these ads like they did last year.
:: The results from last year and its “goofy ads” resulted in over 1,000 newspapers running some or all of the ads on a regular basis. Over 136,000 advertisers have visited the website for more information about the industry and the value proposition. Hundreds of sales presentations have been made by NAA and our member newspapers. We must have connected with them in some way – goofy or not.
:: Far from denigrating print as you suggested, the ads and their powerful copy speak to the strength, the local connection and the franchise’s ability to drive advertising results. The credibility of the print is what makes the digital product line so powerful. The graphics and the copy work together to make that point. If we ignore that digital publishing is another way to reach newspaper non-users, we ignore reality.
:: At the same time I don’t know of any newspapers that are giving up on the print franchise. As you said, it is the enterprise revenue engine that fuels innovation on all fronts. Just look at the pages of almost any newspaper and compare them to the same paper even five years ago. They hardly suggest an industry that has forgotten its roots.
Having said all that, I realize that once you start talking about creative concepts you are open for comment on those concepts. The creative approach is unique that’s for sure and that’s just the point. It has stopping power (if you believe the target audience) and makes the case for reading the strong copy and the reappraisal proposition.
Not everyone is going to fall in love with this campaign, but if it delivers the message of an industry that is energized and managing the migration and transition from a single format to one of multiple audience formats, I think it has done its job. No ad campaign is going to accomplish anything by itself, but it can help.
It is then up to the individual newspapers to take that message and craft it into the value proposition for their organization. Then they have to go and sell that to their advertisers – print and online. If last year is any indication, we successfully trained over 22,000 newspaper advertising sales people in the use and customization of a standardized value presentation that started the process.
Those sales people told us it made a difference and we’re looking to build on that success. One goofy ad at a time.
Thanks again for your concern and passion for newspapers.