SAGE Advice: Selling Newspaper Ads For an Endless Christmas

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By: Leo J. Shapiro and Steve Yahn

Christmas comes but once a year … and seems to last forever! And so, regarding Christmas gift marketing, one size definitely doesn’t fit all.

Our Leo J. Shapiro and Associates January 2006 national poll finds one in five (20%) of consumers reporting doing some of their Christmas shopping after Christmas, up two points from last year (18%), which in turn was up two points from the previous year (16%). Post-Christmas gift buyers tell us they generally spend about one in every five Christmas gift dollars after Christmas.

Further spurring the post-Christmas gift-buying spillover, gift certificate purchasing is also on the rise. Last January, more than four in 10 (42%) of the people we interviewed had bought gift certificates or cards to give at Christmas, an average of 4.5 gift certificates or cards each, with a combined expenditure of $180 by each gift-card giver.

But this January, one half (50%) of the people we interviewed had bought gift certificates or cards to give at Christmas, an average of 5.7 gift certificates or cards each, with a combined average expenditure of $236 by each gifter.

Meanwhile, retailers and their newspaper advertising partners keep pushing the beginning of the Christmas selling season earlier and earlier. But an endless Christmas season presents multiple challenges to retailers and the newspapers that serve them.

Looking ahead to strategies for this coming autumn and winter:

* Target consumers open to the idea of completing all of their shopping early with special early-bird offers.

* Entice early season shoppers with shopping left to do back to stores they think they know with fresh merchandise offerings.

* Help procrastinators make their last-minute purchase decisions with a minimum of fuss.

* Offer understanding and catering to post-Christmas gift shoppers. They are snatching up after-season bargains to give as gifts, so, for example, offer them special Christmas gift-wrapping services.

* Gift certificate buyers are a further and increasingly lucrative segment. Those buying gift certificates rather than actual merchandise base their purchase decisions on the gifting value of the store’s brand rather than on the gifting value of a specific product. Targeting gift certificate buyers, therefore, requires a special marketing focus on the store’s brand rather than the value of their item and price offerings.

These four undoubtedly overlapping segments of gift-buyers — early gifters, late gifters, post-Christmas gift buyers, and gift-card buyers — need to be targeted in different ways through different media. Newspapers need to make a big push all along the line.

BOTTOM LINE

Newspapers and other media may not be ready to support advertisers’ efforts to reach the shifting target markets that develop during an extended Christmas buying season.

To find out, Survival and Growth Enterprises (www.sagegrowth.com) has launched a study of media buyers at advertising and media-buying agencies as well as media buyers at selected retail organizations. SAGE is trying to gauge media readiness to provide advertisers with the audience data they need to efficiently reach the successive target segments that develop during an endless Christmas sales season.

Specifically, SAGE is seeking to find out whether media buyers feel that media in general and newspapers in particular are providing them with the audience information they need to reach carefully targeted markets efficiently.

Early returns indicate that the ?non-line? media? everything but the Internet ? have work to do. Newspaper and magazine publishers and broadcasters need to scramble to match the currency and detail of audience data that can be secured by online media.

Media, not advertisers, have the largest stake in securing audience data needed to reach their target markets.

After sparing no effort to build audience, it would be ironic for a media organization to be unable to maximize advertising revenue because advertisers did not have the audience data they need to reach that audience efficiently.

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