Getting a Rise Out of Deep Discounts

By: Jennifer Saba The Gannett Co. has borrowed a strategy used by retailers (and the government) to inspire consumers to make purchases ? please! ? by throwing big sales to move merchandise. But Gannett's new advertising drive is no Cash for Clunkers.

Gannett started a program called "Thrive" which essentially extends discounts to current and new advertisers. In late July, the chain's Wausau (Wis.) Daily Herald introduced a plan to give away at least $250,000 in ad space through mid-October. If a current advertiser increases the buy by 25%, the Daily Herald will double the entire run. There's a similar structure for new accounts.

"Our aim is: If we give away a lot of additional space in the paper, those businesses can promote their products and services. When they do that, we think it will generate sales for them," Michael Beck, the Wausau Daily Herald's general manager and executive editor, wrote in his paper.

In Nashville, The Tennessean put its own spin on Thrive. Says Daphne Lowell, the paper's manager of B2B marketing and communications, "We took the program and changed it and made it fit our needs a little bit better." The discounting is still there ? "We don't want to call it free advertising, it sounds so cheap," she says ? with some flexibility in applying it. If a buy is more effective running in a larger size, the paper will accommodate the change. "In some instances we doubled and in some instances tripled the value in what they are actually spending. For every client it's different," she notes, adding that an advertiser may spend $1,000 with the paper and end up with a buy valued at $4,000. So far, 48% of advertising sold is incremental.

The Tennessean wanted to offer more, however. "So many of our businesses are run by business people, not marketing people," says Lowell. The advertisers, she notes, need help navigating the worlds of social media, online advertising and search-engine marketing.

So, in conjunction with 1100 Broadway (the Tennessean's digital agency arm, founded about eight months ago), the paper is hosting seminars, partnering with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. The first one, held in August, was designed to help businesses determine the effectiveness of their Web sites. More than 80 signed up for the event, and the majority weren't even existing customers of the Tennessean. The crowd included attendees from churches, banks, law firms, restaurants and retailers.

The seminars are free to all Chamber members, while non-members pay $15. The cost of producing the seminars is low because the paper uses its own specialists from 1100 Broadway. The Tennessean asks attendees what future subjects they'd like to see covered. Lowell reports that the first seminar was a hit. One public relations attendee was so taken with the program that she asked the Tennessean to present to her 40 clients. Lowell adds, "Tell me, where else can you find this many new leads?"


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