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Your Own Worst Enemy: Failure of Most Newspapers to Adopt Standard Advertising Invoices Has Hampered Them from Getting More National and Chain Retail Ads

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Your Own Worst Enemy: Failure of Most Newspapers to Adopt Standard Advertising Invoices Has Hampered Them from Getting More National and Chain Retail Ads

Article excerpt

Your own worst enemy

Failure of most newspapers to adopt Standard Advertising Invoices has hampered them from getting more national and chain retail ads

If the average newspaper wants to know why it is not getting more advertising from national or big retail accounts, it need only look at the bills it sends out, says Ann C. Hunt.

More than likely, those invoices are idiosyncratic forms rather than the supposedly industry standard SAI (Standard Advertising Invoice).

Despite a five-year-long push endorsed by virtually every industry group, the SAI continues to be more honored in the breach than in the observance, said Hunt, the Newspaper Advertising Bureau's vice president/retail market development.

For today's more efficient retailers, the way newspapers have orphaned SAI speaks volumes, Hunt admonished the recent American Newspaper Publishers Association convention in Vancouver.

"The SAI announcement was made in the fall of 1986 with a projected compliance timetable set for Christmas of 1987. Today, the SAI has still not been adopted by most newspapers and has become a symbol of newspaper inertia to our best customers," Hunt said.

Often newspapers will tell NAB researchers they have adopted SAI, Hunt said.

On closer examination, she added, "In most of these cases, the SAI was partially adopted -- which means not adopted -- or formatted, but not used correctly, or disregarded as a |nicety,' but not a necessity."

It is not just NAB that is tracking SAI compliance, Hunt warned. She reported that K mart has determined that, of the 1,300 newspapers on its regular advertising schedule, only 35 are using the SAI and filling it out correctly. Another 160 newspapers "use some elements," according to K mart.

When Sears moved to total receivables automation in late 1989, it too tracked the shape of invoices from the 800 to 900 newspapers it uses.

Sears found frequent mistakes, omissions or plain disregard of SAIs.

In an effort to encourage compliance, the retail giant produced its own correctly filled-out SAI prototype and sent it to all its newspapers.

"Still compliance did not come," Hunt said. "Sears has stopped tracking the invoices, saying they'll believe it when they see it."

As glaring as it may be, the SAI failure is just one of numerous obstacles the newspaper industry has erected against big, multimarket advertisers over the past decades, Hunt and other marketing experts told the ANPA.

Another obstacle is the bewildering array of rate cards, with no standardization of differentials or volume breaks.

"The truth is that most newspaper rate cards today are a mess," NAB president Len Forman said. "It takes man-days [for advertisers] to put . . . information together into a coherent multimarket buy -- and man-days more to execute the buy."

The industry has taken a step toward the one-order, one-bill ideal with the establishment of Newspapers First, a computer program for the planning, ordering and billing of national advertising.

National advertisers, using their own computers, could call up the system and select buying schedules and get quotes extraordinarily quickly, said Jerry Tillis, vice president/marketing for Knight-Ridder Inc.

"Currently, it takes days and sometimes weeks to complete a quote for a newspaper schedule," he said. …

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