Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Advertisers Still Underwhelmed; National Ads in Color Are Getting Easier to Sell in Multi-Newspaper Deals, but Remain Hard to Produce Well Consistently

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Advertisers Still Underwhelmed; National Ads in Color Are Getting Easier to Sell in Multi-Newspaper Deals, but Remain Hard to Produce Well Consistently

Article excerpt

THE QUALITY OF color reproduction in national newspaper advertising has improved in recent years, but even major papers are struggling to produce high quality ads with complete consistency.

"I'm not happy. It should be better, but it's improving," said Woo Sui Tom, print production manager at Campbell Ewald/ Los Angeles, the advertising agency whose client, DirecTV has been running color ads since March in papers around the country. The company has been generally pleased with the campaign, despite problems with ads in such papers as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

"We had a problem with reproduction with USA today, and with other papers there was too much ink or not enough ink," Tom said.

Similarly, Chrysler has had problems with its campaign for Dodge Intrepid and Stratus. The campaign broke in 82 papers in June.

"The color was totally unacceptable in about eight or nine papers," said Greg Hahn, director of print production at BBDO/Southfield, Mich."We ended up getting make goods."

One of the papers was USA Today, which admitted that about 10,000 of the more than 2 million copies printed were "dirty due to set-off issues," according to Andy Hurt, USA Today's manager of advertising operations. That may seem like a small number, but some of the dirty papers were distributed in Detroit, near Chrysler headquarters,"which was very sensitive from a political angle,' Hurt said. USA Today, the flagship of Gannett Co., granted make goods for more than 10,000 copies, he said.

The DirecTV campaign was coordinated by Gannett's National Four-Color Newspaper Network, and the Chrysler campaign by the Newspaper National Network, a division of the Newspaper Association of America. While both ad sales organizations make it easier for advertisers to buy space in a multitude of papers, they can't ensure the quality of the color.

"Part of the problem is they have put together marketing organizations where you write one insertion order and send materials to one source and they disperse everything to the papers, but all papers have different equipment and standards," said Hahn of BBDO."The ideal way would be to provide film for each newspaper to its specification and give them a color proof to match."

Pat Haegele, NNN's president, said that is the way it's done in many cases, but sometimes it's not possible because of time constraints. NNN tries to provide press proofs and tear sheets to the papers, but "sometimes the materials aren't ready, so then we rely on quality control or the local market to make decisions on their own," she said.

Papers print daily, but it usually takes at least a week to prepare color ads for reproduction.

"The pressure of deadlines means there's more pressure producing it the right way. It's a one-shot deal," said Ira Finkelstein,director of print service at BBDO/New York, which prepares color ads for AT&T.

Meanwhile, the actual printing process is relatively short, so there's little time to make color corrections.

"Most papers do it in four to six hours," said Nick Canistraro, NAA senior vice president in charge of advertising. "There's no opportunity to stop the press and tune up the color, like magazines, which are produced by commercial printers."

NNN tries to get materials to the papers at least 10 working days before the ads run, but it isn't always possible because the agencies may not have them ready.

The Wall Street Journal, which started running color advertising last October, established a tight deadline policy requiring all materials to be at the paper seven days before publication, 14 days if proofs are required.

"We're not going to compromise on quality for a fast close," said Paul Atkinson, vice president of advertising. "We've had to turn down business," he said, blaming the problem on advertising agencies that are unable or unwilling to accommodate the tight deadlines. …

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