On November 4, 2010 Caxton complained to the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) that a sales presentation brochure used by Shopper’s Friend’s representatives during presentations to media specialists is in contravention of certain clauses in the ASA Code.
Following the ASA Directorate’s ruling on March17, 2011, Gill Randall of Caxton has published selective information on TheMediaOnline (April 6, 2011) and has expressed Caxton’s disappointment that the advertising industry has been “misled by a major media player which is fully conversant with the ASA Code”.
Unfortunately Ms Randall is the one who is trying to mislead the advertising industry. The ASA Code provides that where the Directorate finds a lack of substantiation to claims in advertisements, the respondent is entitled to submit additional substantiation. Not only that, there are two levels of appeal. Caxton is well aware that Shopper’s Friend has appealed against the Directorate’s main findings and has undertaken to submit further substantiation for the Directorate to reconsider its findings.
Instead of respecting the process and awaiting the outcome of these further proceedings, Ms Randall has tried to get mileage out of the Directorate’s inconclusive findings.
I say “inconclusive” because the Directorate has not found as a fact that any of Shopper’s Friend’s claims are actually untrue, only that insufficient substantiation has been tendered. Shopper’s Friend intends to rectify that.
Shopper’s Friend will not prejudge the ASA’s process, but since Caxton has jumped the gun and is now trying to mislead the industry, I will disclose some of the information and arguments, which will be before the Directorate and the Appeal Tribunal.
In the complaint Caxton disputed that Shopper’s Friend has a circulation of more than two million copies per week. Although we submitted our ABC verified certificate showing 2 017 601 average distribution per week over 13 weeks, the ASA unfortunately misinterpreted the certificate, believing that it reflected the total distribution figure over a period of three months.
On that basis it found in favour of Caxton. We have cleared up that misunderstanding.
Secondly, Shopper’s Friend asked Adecho to test the cost per response by placing a Samsung competition ad in The Star, Shopper’s Friend and four of Caxton’s community newspapers. The result showed that the advertising cost per response in Shopper’s Friend was R5.17, for Caxton was R16.36 and for The Star was R19.73.
Caxton complained that the Shopper’s Friend ad was on its front page whereas it was “buried” (their word) in the inner pages of The Star and the Caxton publications. The ASA upheld Caxton’s complaint that the placing of the ads had to be identical in each publication.
We are contesting that finding on the basis that Shopper’s Friend is not a newspaper, identical placing is not possible, advertising space on the front page of The Star and of Caxton’s newspapers is virtually unobtainable and in any event, far more expensive. Our point, as we have said, relates to the cost per response. I invite any media planner to do the sums. You pay 11 cents per copy to be in Caxton and two cents per copy for the same ad on a cover of Shopper’s Friend.
Thirdly, Caxton had a problem with research done by Brad Aigner of FGI, which proved market acceptance of Shopper’s Friend despite Caxton’s 30 year head-start. Caxton complained that FGI research is not SAMRA compliant. Shopper’s Friend is submitting substantiation that Brad Aigner is an associate member of SAMRA and complies with its Code.
Finally, Caxton complained of our “comparative advertising”. Hands up any media buyer who has not seen Caxton presenting comparisons between their own publications and others. In fact, inside the newspapers they publish comparisons to The Star and other competing titles.
Caxton has tried to portray our marketing brochure as false and dishonest. Nowhere in its findings did the Directorate say that we have made a false or dishonest claim. The Directorate held that in its view insufficient substantiation had been tendered.
That is why despite Shopper’s Friend’s appeal, Gill Randall has cited selected portions of the ruling to get some media mileage out of the initial ruling. In my view this is a blatant attempt by Ms Randall to mislead.
Ms Randall, which ever way you look at it, Shopper’s Friend is the best way to distribute loose inserts.
More about the AdEcho ad response test
AdEcho ran an audit (not research as Caxton tries to make it out to be). Our audit compared the cost of the ad to SMS responses in a competition. Money is the common denominator, and the position or number of titles is irrelevant since we show cost per response. For each rand invested what is the response or as we put it, what is the cost for each SMS. What does an advertiser get for his money?
The position argument is completely and utterly irrelevant, since an advertiser pays money for a particular spot. This is what we were measuring – the return on investment (ROI). It must further be understood that the media format which Caxton and other newspapers operate under differ dramatically from the media format Shopper’s Friend operate, this was taken into account with the audit and factored in.
All newspapers charge a 100% loading for the front page solus position. They no longer publish this on their rate cards, one has to phone them, and ask but these positions are booked years in advance and impossible to come by.
It is simple COST divided by response =ROI or cost per response. That is all. If the ad had been on the cover of Caxton it would have pulled more, but it would have also cost more, so the cost per response which we measure is the yardstick.
We chose four Caxton Newspapers in Gauteng, One from the each part to get a geographic spread, North (Pta Record) West (Roodepoort Record) East (Boksburg Advertiser) and South (Alberton Record).
If we had put an ad in every Caxton paper in Gauteng it would have cost R4 092,90 per single col cm; (add up all the FC rates below) I.e. advert size 13cm x 4 col = 52 col cm x R4 092 = R212 830.80. Then we would have got as many responses as Shopper’s Friend but once again the cost per response would have remained higher, since this 13×4 ad on the cover of Shoppers Friend only cost R39 988 vs. the R212 830.80 it would cost in Caxton for a similar circulation. So we sampled 4 titles geographically spread titles and invested R34k instead of R212k. The bottom line is that SF is incredibly cheap given its massive circulation.
We could also take a similar size ad (13 x 4) and divide it by the Circulation of each as seen below. Shopper’s Friend is more than five times cheaper at 2c a copy vs. Caxton at 11c.
So this is why Shopper’s Friend outperforms Caxton because its rates are so low. This is an irrefutable FACT based on audited circulation or as we did audited SMS response to identical adverts, worked back to actual rate card cost.