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Newspapers are starting to show some muscle in the fight for more national advertising.

Chrysler Corp. last week broke an estimated $1 million-plus ad buy in 75 papers in 40 markets to promote a national minivan sale for the Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge divisions.

The effort follows a Winter Olympics buy in 75 newspapers in February by Xerox Corp. and a 72-page holiday catalog insert in more than 300 papers in November by Toys "R" Us.

The efforts were coordinated by the Newspaper Association of America to try to grow newspapers' dismal 5% share of the estimated $77 billion spent on national advertising annually.

The Chrysler buy was significant because it offered a preview of what the NAA hopes will happen when it launches the long-awaited National Newspaper Network late in the second quarter. The network will offer competitive cost-per-thousand-based pricing, guaranteed positioning and one-order one-bill processing to advertisers that make little use of newspapers: automotive, food, household supplies, toiletries and medical products marketers (AA, Dec. 20).

Instead of negotiating rates and placing ads with 75 newspapers, Chrysler placed one order and received one bill. It also got guaranteed positioning and competitive rates of less than $40 per thousand for page ads and less than $20 per thousand for half-page ads. Publicitas Advertising Services, Stamford, Conn., handles the order and billing process.

Chrysler "saved substantially," said Nick Cannistraro, NAA senior VP-chief marketing officer. "For many newspapers, a full-page open ad rate costs more than $50 per thousand."

Xerox and Toys "R" Us negotiated competitive rates and guaranteed placement and positioning, but did not use a one-order, one-bill service.

Chrysler plans to promote its minivan sales up to three times in the 75 newspapers in March. Dodge's full-page ad was by BBDO Worldwide, Southfield, Mich. Chrysler-Plymouth's two half-page color ads were created by Bozell, Southfield. BBDO's PentaCom, Troy, handled media.

"This is a test to see if [newspapers] can do what they promised," said Jim Julow, director of marketing operations for Chrysler Corp.

"If it works as planned, our newspaper advertising will increase. It's virtually zero today," he said. "And it will clearly come out of TV and print-most likely network TV."

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