“Advertisers are having to spend a lot more to buy a lot less. Economies of scale in complete reverse.” Chris Moerdyk questions the marketing – or lack of – by South African newspapers.
South Africa’s newspapers have really got to make a conscious effort to start marketing themselves like professionals and stop behaving like spoilt children trying to con their parents into spending money on them.
Right now their marketing philosophy seems to be based on the principle of bullshit baffles brains. And it manifests itself every time ABC figures are released.
Terrible, desperate, editorials, full of self adulation, written for readers but aimed, as we all know, at advertisers and media buyers.
And unfortunately, achieving nothing else but the amusement and continued irritation of the very people they are trying to impress.
It is such silly marketing and one cannot help but wonder at the naivety, lack of professionalism and complete misunderstanding of marketing by newspaper management.
I remember for example, some time back, a daily newspaper published a shameless, self congratulatory front page story claiming in the first paragraph to be the “widest-read broadsheet daily newspaper in the country” with a circulation of 165 948.
Lower down in the story it grudgingly mentioned that a “downmarket” daily tabloid had managed a circulation of 235 386.
Were they genuinely expecting readers, advertisers and media buyers to fall for that desperately weak argument? Do media buyers, readers and advertisers really give a toss about whether a newspaper is tabloid or broadsheet?
What, one wonders, would onsumers think if Cell C claimed in an advertisement that it was the biggest cellular network in the country using a single letter of the alphabet in its name?
I know that quite often, among themselves, newspapers bemoan the fact that media buyers in this country are usually young blonde bimbos with single figure IQs, but even if that were true, it doesn’t take much intelligence to see through what a lot of newspapers are desperately trying to do.
Day after day marketers, advertisers and their agencies are inundated with media inflation data.
Even a brain dead amoeba knows that newspaper circulations have dropped in the past 20 years and haven’t recovered.
On top of which, over the past two decades, media advertising rates have rocketed more than most other commodities in the country.
All of which means that advertisers are having to spend a lot more to buy a lot less. Economies of scale in complete reverse.
Brainless promotion achieves very little. Perhaps senior management get some sort of warm glow, but their target market certain isn’t taken in. And generally speaking, staff end up mortified and embarrassed and completely demotivated.
It is hardly surprising that the bulk of South Africa’s newspapers are so inept at marketing themselves.
Of course, up untill the 1990s newspapers didn’t need marketers or marketing budgets. Money just came rolling in despite the best efforts of lazy advertising clerks to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to advertise.
So, it is understandable that as circulations tumbled, it wasn’t easy to persuade equally marketing-inept boards to suddenly start spending millions on marketing.
They have come quite a way, but I would guess that newspaper marketing budgets right now are at about the level where under normal circumstances they would have been in about 2002.
And that marketing buying power, both in terms of human resources and activities, is not nearly enough to meet today’s challenges.
If newspaper management would take the trouble to talk to some of their big advertisers – the Unilevers, Vodacoms, Pick ‘n Pays of this world – about marketing and marketing budgets, they’d get a very good idea of just how far behind they are lagging both in terms of resources and intellectual capital.
Newspapers would also discover that marketing is not about gimmicks, self-adulatory promos, smoke, mirrors and discount cover prices but rather about an obsession with quality content and ad marketers not ad reps.
By the way, I got the inspiration to write about this subject from something similar I penned way back in 1994. Very little, if anything, has changed.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk