Newspapers Trounce Mail in Belden Survey: For Classified Advertisers, Newspapers Are the Best-Performing Medium, Far Outdistancing Direct Mail

By Kerwin, Ann Marie | Editor & Publisher, June 26, 1993 | Go to article overview

Newspapers Trounce Mail in Belden Survey: For Classified Advertisers, Newspapers Are the Best-Performing Medium, Far Outdistancing Direct Mail


Kerwin, Ann Marie, Editor & Publisher


FOR CLASSIFIED ADVERTISERS, newspapers are the top-rated, best-performing medium, far outdistancing the second-rated medium, direct mail, according to a recent study conducted by Belden Associates, Dallas, Texas.

About half of the respondents (48%) said newspapers perform "excellent" or "very good" overall, while direct mail received only half that rating (23%).

Nearly two of 10 classified advertisers rate weeklies and shoppers favorably.

Newspapers are also the medium most relied on by classified advertisers, with close to two-thirds of U.S. advertisers and three-fourths of Canadian advertisers reporting that they rely on daily newspapers most above all other media.

While indications seem that this trend will hold, newspapers should beware of increased competition from other media, said Deanne Termini, president of Belden Associates. She recently presented the survey's findings to members of the International Newspaper Marketing Association at that group's annual meeting in Toronto.

Classified advertisers were contacted to find out what they think of their local newspaper and other media options in their market. The goal was to find out how newspapers are serving classified advertisers and what those advertisers want that newspapers are not providing.

Newspapers participating in the study provided names and phone numbers of classified advertising decision makers. In 32 markets in the United States and Canada, 126 classified advertisers were contacted by telephone in April. The interviews, with almost all advertisers who use newspapers, lasted an average of 20 minutes.

The study concentrated on automobile dealers and real estate agencies, each group accounting for about one-third of the interviews. The remaining third of the interviews were with representatives from advertising agencies, auction houses, employment services, and professional services. Three-quarters of the businesses are locally owned.

Classified advertisers live in a shortterm world. To them, advertising is successful only if a flurry of customer response occurs immediately after the ad has run.

"These advertisers are not tracking their image. They are not tracking their share of mind. They are looking for bodies or phone calls or cash," Termini said. "If an ad doesn't deliver one of these three, it's not worth the time or the money."

For classified advertisers, more than retailers, the measure of advertising effectiveness is a direct response.

"In other words, what the advertiser really wants to buy is a response from the paper's readers," Termini said.

It just follows, then, that classified advertisers are pleased with a medium when they see visible results from their advertising.

"Over and over, advertisers spoke of "response" as the acid test for advertising effectiveness. Yet, few advertisers mentioned any concrete analysis of response," Termini said.

Most seemed to have a "seat of the pants" attitude about responses, saying that "people tell me they saw our ad on TV, in the newspaper, or heard it on the radio."

If classified customers were dissatisfied, they usually cited lack of response as the reason, but there were other reasons.

One respondent said, "I just don't like to deal with newspapers." Another said, "Newspapers are saturated with [advertising for] other companies with the same products."

Cable television was liked by advertisers who have used it, and not because it is cheap. These advertisers realized that cable offers a targeted audience, and that one can pick the stations and times to maximize a buy.

Paid programming options, such as channels that show homes for sale, were praised by users as efficient and responsive because the stations are self-selecting.

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Newspapers Trounce Mail in Belden Survey: For Classified Advertisers, Newspapers Are the Best-Performing Medium, Far Outdistancing Direct Mail
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