Advertising Managers' Perceptions of Sales Effects and Creative Properties of National Newspaper Advertising: The Medium Revisited

Article excerpt

Building on a previous survey of large-agency media specialists' opinions on the sales effects of national newspaper advertising, we surveyed advertising managers with the nation's largest national advertisers to measure opinions on national newspaper advertising for (1) ad delivery effectiveness, (2) sales effects, and (3) creative properties of media-delivered ads. High agreement was found between ad managers and media specialists. Newspapers fared poorly as a national medium for ad delivery effectiveness, sales effects, and medium-based creative properties of ads in comparison with network TV, but were judged effective at producing immediate sales payout and delivering both simple and complex ad messages. The more dollars spent in national newspaper advertising by a company, the more effective the medium was perceived by that firm's advertising manager.

Advertiser skepticism about the sales effects of national newspaper ads has long been associated with the newspaper industry's inability to generate satisfactory national advertising revenues.1 In 1993, empirical support for the "advertiser skepticism" explanation appeared in the research literature.2

The research, reported by Tolley, tested the sales effects of four unpretested, one-third page national package-goods ads on the shopping behavior of newspaper subscribers,3 with ads run in regular pages of the test city's daily newspaper and sales effects scanner-measured for four branded grocery items. Twenty-five weeks of purchase data revealed that the newspaper test ads increased brand sales, brand trial rates, and brand market shares, and improved the effectiveness of promotional programs. According to Tolley, the research demonstrated that advertiser skepticism about national newspaper advertising is unfounded. From his results, he concluded that "newspapers-dailies carrying small space, nonpromotional ads-may be in the same ballpark as both magazines and television when it comes to sales effects of national advertising."4 The problem, Tolley argued, is that national advertisers' image of newspapers is at variance with the facts about sales effects of national newspaper ads.

Three years later, Reid, King, and Morrison published data examining directly Tolley's suspicion about "advertiser-misconception" - that national advertisers have a perception of newspapers at variance with the facts about the medium's effectiveness.5 The study was predicated on the assumption that:

As an industry, newspapers must convince media gatekeepers, especially agency media directors and planners, of the impact merits of national newspaper advertising ... For no matter what the reality of the situation is, action-in this case, recommending and buying newspaper space for national accounts-is determined by the perception of the situation; the presumed sales effects of national newspaper advertising.6

The study measured large-agency media experts' perceptions of newspapers' ability to produce Tolley's four sales effects relative to other media options, and found that newspapers ranked behind every option but billboards and place-based media as a national advertising medium. Despite Tolley's findings, newspaper ads were perceived significantly less effective at producing sales, market share, and trial rates than network TV ads, the specialists' medium of choice for national advertising. Newspapers were perceived as effective as network TV in allowing national advertisers to coordinate promotions with image ads.

When background characteristics of the media specialists were considered, judgments of national newspaper advertising held constant, with two exceptions. Specialists with smaller agencies that placed moderate amounts of national newspaper ads rated newspapers more effective than their counterparts at agencies with the largest and smallest national newspaper billings. Neither newspaper readership nor age were related to perceived newspaper ad effectiveness, findings which countered the newspaper industry's charge of age bias in agency media buying. …