Better Targeting Through the Local Newspaper

A New Tool From Interpublic Group Goes Below ZIP-Code Level

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CHICAGO ( -- A media-buying firm claims to have cracked the code on buying print ads at a sub-ZIP code level. Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned Newspaper Services of America has developed an analytical tool to help clients -- which include Home Depot, Sears, CVS and Bridgestone -- target consumers through a narrower geographic lens than has been previously available.

The tool lets big advertisers who formerly leaned on major newspapers to blanket a metropolitan area focus more accurately on individual neighborhoods in an attempt to zone in on the areas where its most-desired customers reside through a combination of newspaper zoned editions, preprint inserts, direct mail, shoppers and other publications, NSA Media Chief Development Officer Craig Desens said in an interview.

Might that potentially be more bad news for slumping newspapers, a mass medium that has traditionally benefited from the adage that advertisers know half their ad buys are wasted, just not which half?

Not so, said Mr. Desens. He cited the case of a mid-sized local restaurant chain that might not be able to afford to regularly blanket an entire metro area with ads. "If you've got eight locations, you now have the capability to advertise in just these eight neighborhoods," he said, suggesting marketers would then advertise more. "But there may be a proportion of big clients who say, 'I can now be more efficient so I can put some of the money back in my pocket.'"

He declined to disclose which of his clients were already using the tool, and whether they were reducing spending as a result. NSA is the nation's single largest U.S. newspaper buyer, steering $1.6 billion of its client's ad budgets to newspapers each year.

But a top executive at newspaper publisher Tribune Co.'s cross-media selling unit said it welcomed the new technology. "Newspapers embrace both this philosophy and this capability because it plays to our strengths as the most wanted advertising medium," Ken DePaola, the president of Tribune Media Net, said in a statement. "We believe in the value of using ever-more granular data and technology to provide deeper distribution and more relevant offers to our readers, thereby producing increased return to our advertisers."

Mr. Desens, for his part, described the innovation as the biggest breakthrough in newspaper ad sales in two decades. "The holy grail is being able to target individual households," he said. "This is the biggest step toward that in a while."
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