By: M.L. STEIN
BEFORE GETTING TO the heart of his message to a Los Angeles conference of newspaper marketers, ad agency executive David A. Park said he had been asked by its sponsors not to deliver a “feel-good speech.”
The sponsors should have been pleased. Park, president of DDB Needham, Los Angeles, bluntly told the International Newspaper Marketing Association (INMA) that television, cable, radio and magazines, billboards and other media are way ahead of newspapers in capturing national advertising.
The assessment, he noted, comes from agency media planners, the strategists who find the prospects, figure their receptivity and determine appropriate cost.
At DDB U.S., Park said, about half of its 450 media professionals are planners and that such specialists are an integral part of advertising agencies. DDB, with current billings of $9.7 billion, includes the Los Angeles Times among its clients.
With all the media options available to advertisers today, newspapers face “enormous competitive challenges in order to become part of the national advertisers media plan,” Park stated.
Media planners, Park explained, use a tool called the Personal Media Network to establish how, when and where prospects consume media and how media usage patterns differ by time of day, day of week, and even to weekend day.
“If you’re still on their screen, you’re still in the game,” Park said. “But if newspapers are still on the screen, why don’t they emerge as critical parts of the national advertisers’ plan more often?”
The answer, he offered, is that newspapers are not perceived as competing effectively for a place on the plan.
“The other media are winning the day in every way,” he reported.
Newspapers should not leap for joy over the fact that they command $38.2 billion ? more than 22% ? of the total U.S. ad market, Park cautioned.
Local, not national, advertising accounts for the bulk of the revenue, $33.5 billion, the speaker noted.
“You need to grow, and growth will only come if you succeed in competing for national advertising,” Park asserted.
To stress the point, he noted that locally placed national advertising totaled $16.8 billion last year with only $4.67 billion going to newspapers.
“What you as an industry must fear most is your past success,” he told his audience. “There’s no room for optimism. The glass is not half full; it’s 75% empty ? and leaking.”
The danger, Park continued, is that local advertising is not growing. In 1996, he said, retail was up just 1.6%. Classified jumped 9.9%, but the Internet challenge “could take the bloom off that segment very soon,” he warned.
Media planners, according to Park, attribute newspapers’ past successes to being passive marketers.
“While your sales representatives know their products very well and are good at selling what they have, their success in national sales is very misleading because that success really only comes when newspapers are virtually an automatic decision for a brand’s tactical needs ? like an airline price war or a hostile takeover of a local bank by a carpetbagger,” he said.
Planners further feel that newspaper reps are either unprepared for or not empowered to do much more than process an order ? that they only sell what they have with no real thought about or the capacity to serve a client’s needs, Park went on. Media planners, he said, see newspapers as approaching national sales the way they historically approached their local market, as though they are in a position of absolute strength ? “make that dominance.”
The planners’ perception is that while other media always have had to scramble to compete against newspapers at home, newspapers have remained aloof and above the battle, Park related.
“There’s no buzz in the industry to capture a planner’s imagination ? to make them feel newspapers are vital to a plan,” Park lamented. “The medium just isn’t perceived as cutting edge.”
But even if newspapers suddenly become innovators in going after national advertisers, they will still face barriers, one being the rate card, he said.
“Planners will tell you there are no rate cards in advertising,” Park said. “Rate cards have become like my daughters’ Christmas list: they clearly communicate what they want but any resemblance to what they actually get is purely coincidental.”
Another barrier is cost, he went on. He described newspapers as the most expensive media in terms of both out-of-pocket costs and CPM, regardless of the target.
Park said his media director wonders why newspapers are not concerned about boosting thir shrinking local revenue stream with national advertising.
“But he doesn’t see the industry doing anything to demonstrate that it really wants or deserves consideration for national business,” he related.
Still another snag in newspapers competing with other media in corralling national advertising is that they “simply make it hard to do the job,” Park said. “So many different calls to so many different places just to get the rate cards, and then there’s the daunting task of deciphering them because each one is a little different.”
Park also said agencies find fault with newspapers’ billing process, complaining that invoices are not standardized, hard to make out and “frequently don’t match up.”
Media planners say newspapers must first deal with cost efficiency in going after national ads, he said, because “the national vs. local rate differential is startling, worse than ever and appears to lack justification to national advertisers.”
The planners also recommend that newspaper marketing people be given more flexibility and empowerment to respond to client’s needs and that the industry simplify its booking and billing procedures, Park told the audience.
The ad executive said he agreed with the planners but declared himself more optimistic about newspapers’ ability to “overcome the inertia of your historic local success.” His optimism, he revealed, springs largely from his work with the Los Angeles Times, which he lauded for re-engineering its marketing process to better serve advertisers.
The INMA meeting drew 425 delegates from 37 countries and was reportedly the group’s largest attendance in more than 10 years. In 1998, INMA will gather in Amsterdam, the first time the annual conference has been held out of the United States.
? E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com.
?copyright: Editor & Publisher May 17, 1997