New breath of creativity

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When sbc Communications was looking to distinguish itself as a full-fledged member of the new economy, it didn't turn to Internet advertising or even TV.

Instead, the telecommunications company turned largely to newspapers to make the point that it is a major player in broadband, networking and e-commerce solutions. Thinking outside the box, SBC, like other marketers in its category, relied on color ads in the once gray interior space of national and metro newspapers.

SBC's effort is one of several examples of an advertising irony: The rise of the interactive age is helping breathe new creative life into newspapers, one of the oldest of media. Dot-com advertisers such as E*Trade, Idealab's Eve.com, Fidelity Investment Cos.' online service, GMAC's MortgageRamp.com, Priceline and Sabre Co.'s Travelocity.com are spearheading these new media ad efforts, but they're using newspapers to reach consumers.

INSIDE COLOR

As new advertisers try newspapers, they're adding splashes of color to traditionally b&w inside pages.

Some are literally thinking outside the box and moving their ads from the rectangles at the bottoms of newspaper pages to the bags wrapping the publications. Other innovations include McClatchy Co.'s Minneapolis Star-Tribune's use of Post-It notes on the upper left corner of the publication's front page beginning May 29.

The SBC campaign, which broke in April and included ads in national business and computer magazines, ran daily in The Wall Street Journal, Gannett Co.'s USA Today and 30 local dailies in SBC's service area.

The campaign, featuring the prominent tagline, "I am data," is meant to establish SBC as "not just your local phone company anymore," but rather as a major player in data communications, says Tim Rodgers, partner iatRodgers Townsend, St. Louis, which created the ads.

SBC owns regional Bell operating companies Ameritech Corp., Pacific Bell, Southwestern Bell; and SNET; Sterling Commerce, which provides business-to-business electronic data interchange services; and a substantial stake in broadband communications broker Williams Communications.

SEEKING IMPACT

Using color to make the ads stand out on inside newspaper pages was one key to getting maximum impact amid growing numbers of dot-com advertisers, says Mr. Rodgers.

"A few years ago, you'd have been scared to death to run something like this . . . that the colors would bleed all over the place," he says. "But newspaper [color] reproduction capabilities are now so much better, you don't have to be afraid."

Procter & Gamble Co., a package-goods advertiser that had all but abandoned ROP newspaper advertising, has turned to an attention-grabbing splash of color on inside pages of newspapers in the past year.

One-eighth-page ads for P&G's flagship Tide brand, featuring its signature orange target logo, routinely run during holidays, using word plays similar to the out-of-home campaign developed in 1998 by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York.

The ads usually are the only color found on the inside spreads where P&G advertises.

HOLIDAY CONNECTION

The ads made up only $3 million of Tide's $91 million in measured media spending in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. But they do help keep Tide in front of consumers during holiday seasons when families are more likely to be home spending time with newspapers, a spokeswoman says.

Tide's campaign was one factor that drove P&G's ROP national and local newspaper spending up 160% to $13 million last year, though the outlay still pales beside P&G's $1.7 billion outlay for all measured media last year, according to CMR.

Erwin Ephron, media consultant and partner at Ephron, Papazian & Ephron, cites P&G's use of "small-space color" as one of the more creative, and cost-effective, uses of local newspaper advertising by a national advertiser in recent years. He expects other advertisers to follow suit.

Mr. Ephron calls local newspapers' efforts to land national advertising "a heartbreaking hope," but sees P&G's move as a step in that direction.

WILLING TO EXPERIMENT

Increased use of color throughout the newspaper is only one of the creative directions advertisers and newspapers are taking, says John Kimball, senior VP-chief marketing officer of the Newspaper Association of America.

"Newspapers are much more willing to try things they might not have attempted several years ago to show advertisers there is a great deal of flexibility in the medium and that you can use it creatively to get readers to respond to messages," Mr. Kimball says, and adds, the use of polybags and Post-It notes are among the more creative approaches.

America Online is among advertisers making effective use of polybag ads, distributing free CD-ROM membership start-up kits in the bag, says Michael Dawes, national sales manager for the Houston Chronicle.

Local energy and cellular companies also have used ads on polybags to direct readers to their ads inside the paper, he says.

POSTER FORMAT

The Chronicle also has developed a poster format for its weekly entertainment section in the last year as a way of attracting advertising for new movie releases. Advertisers can print their ad on poster-size paper and have them inserted into the paper.

But, overall Mr. Dawes says he sees dot-coms, both business-to-consumer and business-to-business, leading the way in using local newspapers and creative approaches such as spot color to get their message across.

"I think advertisers that are branding are starting to come back toward newspapers more than they had in the past," he says. "Newspaper advertising is becoming more of a branding tool rather than being just about price."

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