Media analysis: Newspapers question the power of television

IN 1998 national newspaper groups ploughed pounds 73m into television advertising, but it might be time to ask: how much is a TV advertisement worth to a newspaper?

This newspaper has just begun a substantial television advertising campaign. The Independent has plenty to shout about: new sections, a cluster of awards and a year-on-year increase in sales for the first time in three years.

But many newspaper executives are now asking whether television advertising is the most cost effective way of improving sales.

A number of factors conspire to make newspapers, both broadsheet and tabloid, among the most expensive products to put on air. The first thing is the short-term nature of most newspaper advertising campaigns. TV companies have advance booking, or AB, deadlines around six weeks ahead of transmission date. After this date you pay a premium to get on air, and the closer your required broadcast date the bigger the premium.

Because most newspapers run advertising to support individual promotions - giveaway tickets, holidays, books for schools or whatever - they will not often know what those promotions are to be until the last moment. Some weeks, the media buyers for a newspaper group will not be instructed to enter the airtime trading market until a week or even a few days before they want the ad to air. This explains the increasing use newspapers are making of radio, because ads there can be turned around very quickly. More than once TV ads have been made from scratch at lunchtime on a Friday and broadcast that same night.

The other addition to a paper's TV advertising costs is the Friday-night squeeze. The prevailing wisdom is that readers have little time to read and make use of promotions in the week. On Saturdays and Sundays there are bigger papers, and more leisure time in which to read them. But that means newspapers all piling on to C4, ITV and to a lesser extent C5, trying to buy around programmes watched by a young, metropolitan audience. They don't want to share an ad break with the others and so they pay through the nose for their place in the schedules. The premium newspapers pay to get on TV, compared with other types of goods, can be more than 50 per cent - in other words they get 50 per cent less advertising for their money. Only cars during the summer car-buying times, and alcohol brands around football matches, have to stump up so much extra to get on air.

And where does this get newspapers? It is very difficult to measure the effect of long-term, brand-building advertising campaigns. They change perceptions in cinemas, on radio and on posters, over periods that take years. But the immediate boost from a quick, promotional ad campaign is fairly easy to quantify.

Last month The Sunday Times, which spent pounds 4.7m on TV last year, helped boost its average sales figure when it advertised a millennium part- work offer on TV. This would have raised sales by around 20,000 at a cost of pounds 200,000 over the weekend. The Observer, which advertised heavily in January, eased off its spending to just one weekend and saw its sales average fall by 13,000 month on month. The weekend it did advertise, its sales would have been closer to 430,000 than the 406,000 they came in at. Last year The Observer spent pounds 1.1m on TV advertising - a quarter of The Sunday Times' budget.

In the tabloid market, TV advertising seems to pull in a bigger sale than for broadsheets. The tabloids can get a 100,000 lift from a really good promotion, and spending pounds 300,000 over a weekend is not unusual.

Associated Newspapers is the biggest spender and last year put a whopping pounds 18.8m on air just for its Mail titles. A recent BA half-price offer would have cost around pounds 400,000 in airtime, but it had promotion tokens in the Saturday Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and Monday's London Evening Standard.

But what happens in both the broadsheet and tabloid markets is that heavy promotional advertising fails to retain readers. Perhaps cumulatively the Mail titles have benefited from almost non-stop promotional advertising, but for most newspapers, readers come to expect giveaway offers every day. And newspapers need them too.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk