Media Update from Alice Buttling

In a week where we thought things might be getting clearer with the promise of a ‘road map’ to exit lockdown, it seems the opposite has happened and there is more confusion than ever (and frustration I am sure). Not a huge amount has changed on the media landscape, but there is certainly talk of pricing returning to ‘normal’ from June with the ‘lockdown’ deals coming to an end, but this will obviously be dependent on demand, results and circulations from a direct response perspective. Below is a quick snapshot by sector.

Newspapers – the circulations have settled, with winners and losers, but even the ones that decreased have not seen significant drops.  Sunday papers are seeing increases in double figures in the case of Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday.  Circulations were up 6% on average in the week running up to VE day – it was welcome to see news on something other than COVID19.  For the rest of the month at least there will still be some great deals, which will make the CPT lower than pre-lockdown – we have seen many clients getting some of their best ever results and ‘out of season’ spikes thanks to a combination of pricing, engagement and product suitability; in fact for some the biggest issue has been not being able to get enough stock.  For those who have been most impacted by the lockdown in terms of accessing their customers, it could be a good time to take advantage of the prices as we emerge at the end of the month.

TV – still going strong with linear viewing up 21% and VOD viewing up 45%.  The largest increases from 16 – 34 and ABC1 audiences.  72% of viewing is now on the ‘big screen’ taking 10% share from mobiles and the largest increases are from group viewing over individuals.  There is still a large appetite for news with a 45% increase, but also family viewing such as films seeing a 34% rise.  With pricing set to remain low on Channel 4 and ITV (Sky are currently putting their prices back in for June) there has still never been a better time to be on TV.  As recent study by Thinkbox showed their direct sellers web traffic increased by over 300% when they started on TV during lockdown enabling them to sell direct whilst the retailers were closed.

Inserts – third party inserts have struggled to despatch the volumes they forecast as these would have been planned way before any of this happened so there is a bit of catch up in this area, however subs for mags are getting great results and there are many deals to be done as the availability is high due to many advertisers who typically run large insert campaigns pulling out – mainly travel.

Magazines – still a very strong sector with subs high – the real winners being home interest and hobby titles magazines and news/current affairs.  The prices are set to revert for the August issues, out in July, but this will be gradual and there will still be some good deals in these issues I think.  I would expect September to be back on track for them.

Postcard mailing– Now is certainly the time to make contact with your database, whether this is a customer base to cross/upsell to or an enquiry base to start easing into making appointments from existing leads, this will undoubtedly be the most cost effective exercise and it could not be any more flexible or low risk with a printed postcard at 60p, regardless of volume you can dip your toe in and test the water then ramp it up quickly if the results look good.

Mail newspapers carried out some research with their readers and found that 1 in 3 of those surveyed have bought from e commerce sites they have not used before, 50% of those who have not ordered online groceries before have done so for the first time and intent to continue.  They have seen a 56% increase in use of their voucher code site in April and people are saying that they will choose to come out of lockdown very slowly – with mail order purchasing being favoured over high street retail.  Now is the time to make a good impression and reap the benefits of changed consumer behaviour – more virtual meetings, online shopping and less face to face contact.  Top of the list for when lockdown ends though is getting a haircut and having a beauty treatment so that we can emerge back into society without the Zoom filters.

Alice Buttling, MD, 15th May 2020

The ‘no plan’ media plan

As we came out of April we would usually be thinking about media plans for June; as a short term agency we don’t tend to plan too much ahead so are used to working short term. This year however, we are looking at May and forecasting for Q3 has gone completely out of the window. This is the ‘no plan media plan’: no commitment, no budgets, no pressure and I quite like it.

Every client is in a unique situation right now, all have challenges (some greater than others) but there are opportunities too.  We have found that by taking each week (and sometimes each day) one at time, we can maintain a steady flow of spend, look at results as they come in and make a decision about what to do tomorrow based on these.

So how did April shape up? Some clients have had to fully exercise the furlough scheme as it makes no sense for them to try to operate in the current market, so they are ‘on hold’ but actually still receiving a steady flow of interest for when they can function again.  Others have remained fully functioning as a business, despite not being able to sell, and used the time to ‘tidy the classroom at the end of term’ poised in a very strong position to hit the ground running as soon as they can.  We are still running ads in their key titles at much reduced rates to maintain momentum.

Finally, we have the ‘operators’ –  those who have been able to function (albeit with some adaptions and restrictions) with staff working from home, factories running with half capacity, deliveries no longer being signed for and people’s acceptance that delivery does not have to happen the next day.  For some the main issue has been stock: things selling too well and reduced ability to re-stock; but for a number of our clients we have seen our best ever results from individual ads.  With buying rates at rock bottom, circulations still strong and engagement still high it is very much possible to get amazing results from advertising.

So what about May?

With some lifting of lockdown what will be the impact?  I don’t know – but I do believe that the majority of people will still favour mail order over standing in a queue outside a shop, 2m apart, 1 person at a time. Socially distanced shopping will remain only for those shopping for necessities or for those who have a really strong desire to obtain something particular – there is no real  pleasure to be gained from retail shopping for the foreseeable future.  Beyond that we will continue to monitor daily as the responses and the deals come in – the beauty of direct response is you get to see exactly what your £1 spent has generated so you can justify (or not) the next ad.

So no predictions for the future just yet – except perhaps a baby boom in the New Year – as among the busiest websites currently (gardening, home learning and DIY) are Love Honey, whose sales are doing particularly well during the enforced ‘stay at home’!

Alice Buttling, MD & Media Director

 

A great time to run an Insert campaign

In these unsettling and uncertain times we all need to look at doing things a little differently. You may not have considered an insert plan before or maybe you have tried them in the past and didn’t get the results you hoped for but inserts are uniquely placed to offer creative solutions to drive business. 

Many direct sellers rely on press advertising to reach their customers but with many people having to stay in their homes (especially those in the older age brackets) access to their favoured read might be restricted.  Despite the challenges it is still possible to keep the lines of communication open, inserts into third party mailings and subscription magazine copies will continue to reach consumers as normal. So how do you make the most of this opportunity?

  • Firstly and most importantly we would select methods only that ARE DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO THE HOME  – so no wastage and less uncertainty.
  • As people stay at home,  delivered magazines and products will become more important for entertainment and pleasure, creative inserts with a good offering will be received more positively than ever before.
  • Retention value means that people will save a relevant insert until a more suitable time (especially important for two stage advertisers who will need to have leads ready to go when the situation improves).
  • You may now need to change your message or sell differently, whatever you want to say the flexibility of format and creative execution will allow you to communicate your message effectively.

Here at AJ, as experts in short term buying we are used to adapting to rapidly changing marketplaces, it’s what we do every day.  Our established insert department is ready to put together a plan to help keep you going in the coming months. We appreciate that changing agency at this time would be a huge step into the unknown which is why we’re offering to work on a project basis with no ongoing commitment.  

Please call or email to find out how we can help your business stay healthy.

 

How do businesses stay healthy in times like these?

Survival of the fittest, agile working, flexible hours….how do businesses stay healthy when faced with such tough and uncertain times?  Is it OK to try to capitalise on the current situation?  Yes, it will be essential.

A perfect example is Mail Newspapers, who are offering to deliver the paper for free for 6 weeks.  It will work for them – they are already seeing circulation increases (estimated up 20k this weekend and 10k Mon to Fri) due to high engagement with the content (Corovavirus, Cheltenham & Budget) but they are also offering something that could be highly valued to the generation that are worried about imminent isolation, keeping them connected with their main news source, but also for whom reading a newspaper is a hobby, pastime, habit that if they could no longer access could cause even more upset.  I feel certain that this service will lead to circulation increases over the next few weeks as the story unfolds on what happens next.  Perhaps other newspapers will follow suit, but the Daily Mail will benefit from being the first.

I think we all need to do the same. At AJ we don’t make money if our clients are not spending and our clients’ businesses would grind to a halt pretty quickly if they stopped advertising, so I will be focussed on coming up with ideas for all of our clients to ensure that it makes sense for them to keep spending, working with them to find pockets of opportunities. Being realistic we are talking about riding the storm here (have we not had enough of them already this year?) rather than flourishing, but there will be plenty of time to flourish in times to come.

Alice Buttling, Managing Director,

 

 

Make the most of these turbulent times

Our clients are already starting to feel the impact of the effects of Coronavirus: in the last week the number of responses they are getting to their press ads have dropped and we have clients with a lead/appointment/sale model who are seeing up to 30% of their appointments being cancelled.

Again we are faced with uncertainty, in particular with what the Government will do next and how that impacts our lives and of course how far and wide this virus will spread.

Most of our clients don’t have a retail presence and they are far more focussed on generating sales than building a brand, so how do we ensure that their businesses continue to thrive in the current time (given we don’t have any clients selling anti-viral hand gel or loo rolls…)?

Firstly, stay light on your feet.  We book the majority of space short term anyway, so that is easy – there will be less people out and about and buying newspapers, so it is highly likely that the circulations will take a hit in the next few weeks – especially if we go into ‘lock down’.  There will be lots of space available as many clients (travel companies are doing it already) are cancelling space.  People will still be buying newspapers though, so it just means you need to buy cheaper – stick with day to day short term and pick up some bargains

Secondly, up your TV advertising – there will be more people at home watching TV, the available inventory will increase and again there will be travel clients pulling airtime so it will be a buyers market.  Higher TV consumption, lots of boredom = online shopping heaven!   It is like the sweet spot between Christmas and New Year when the working population is off, you can therefore reach them with daytime time TV (far cheaper than peak airtime that you would usually have to buy to reach them) and more responsive as the programming is low engagement.  So if you have a TV ad and you are an online retailer then you could really make the most of a bad situation.

 

The only certainty is uncertainty and the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees…

 

In the advertising environment you have to be able to substantiate every word you say and if you don’t then you can’t get your ad onto the TV screens.  If you run a press ad and even if just one person questions your claims or disagrees with what you say, the likelihood is that you will have to change your ad. 

So, here at AJ, we are finding it increasingly frustrating that the people running our country seem to have no such requirements to adhere to.  We’re days away from the due date to leave the EU and nobody seems any the wiser.  The ‘brightest minds in the country’ still can’t tell us what the consequences of leaving will be, either with a deal or without one – and the various parties can’t even agree among themselves.

So, what does it all mean?  Well, it’s a great time to be advertising in National Press! People are consuming more news now than ever, with many reading a wider variety of titles to get a fuller perspective on the range of thoughts and opinions out there – and so get closer to the truth.

If you can make your advertising budget stretch a little further – and have the flexibility to make things happen quickly – you should be able to see some positives out of this negative time.

Let’s get on with discovering what life is like outside of the EU and see what happens, surely it can only be better than this? And in the meantime, make the most of it while you can and if we can help you do so, all the better!

Quooker appoints Attinger Jack

We are very excited, and rather proud,  to have won the Quooker account for press & TV from September.

This is a real case of playing the long game – we first met with this client over four years ago and we have always felt that we could make a real difference to their business.

The appointment comes at an exciting and important time for Quooker,  coinciding with the launch of their incredible new product ‘The Cube’.  This includes new TV creative, the main objective of which is to both build the brand and drive sales through the retailers.  We also felt that there was a huge potential market in selling direct, something they currently do by default from their advertising rather than running a true DR campaign.

We’re looking forward to building a long, rewarding relationship and helping Quooker to grow their already very successful business even further.

Are you copy ready?

Leaving things to the last minute was always a weakness of mine,  as several long-suffering relatives in receipt of questionable Christmas presents can attest to . Unlike gift-giving, when it comes to buying space, leaving it late is an excellent strategy and one that can deliver the best deals.

But as last minute space does not always come in straightforward sizes you need to be prepared if you want to reap the rewards. Having the ability to quickly adapt your copy to suit, means you can get cheaper rates, prime sites and better ROI.

Most of our clients have the standard full page and half page creative, but as well as that we have 10 x 8 strips (perfect for the front page of the Telegraph), 20 x 2 (ideal for the solus site next to the crossword in The Times), half page vertical (often available facing matter in Stella), and 10 x 2’s (share squares).

Having an adaptable portfolio of varied sizes gives you flexibility and allows us to take advantage of any deals that come up (not just for those in the standard sizes)  thus giving you the most value from your media spend. This is real short term buying – often literally 30 minutes from the deadline, making the office a hive of activity and enterprise even at the end of the day and this outcome will add great value to any schedule.

Contrary to getting to the airport on time and thoughtful present-shopping, buying space stands alone in the category of things you can leave to the last minute – admittedly with the correct prep work, and the right team, working with you.

To learn more about the effectiveness and the impact of holding a range of sizes, contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or email lesley@aja.co.uk.

Leading the way with fresh ideas…

Life is all about trying new things and at AJ we believe supporting new media initiatives is a vital part of growth and improving results for our clients.

As an agency we encourage our clients to try new approaches, not only when things are beginning to fatigue, but all the time. The insight learned from trying new methods can be invaluable in delivering growth and greater results.

At AJ we practice what we preach and when a media owner comes up with a new initiative (which is not as often as we would like!) we fully support it – more than any other agency.  How do we know that? Because when we see it in print we have more clients in than any other – often taking up to 50% of the space.  It not only means we get the best deals to test and the best positions but when it works (which it usually does) we get first dibs on the next print.

We have seen several examples where our approach has paid off. Insider’s Guide, set up in competition with Alison Cork (which in contrast has 50% of her own products in it) has a layout and styling which is modern and refreshing and the results have been strong, with Insider’s Guide beating the Alison Cork results by some margin.

Metro introduced a Gardening feature recently where we had over 50% of the advertising space – all facing or under editorial and we got our highest number of calls for the campaign to the Kinetico full page ad.  Just for You is a page produced by Canopy Media running advertorials in 5 Time inc magazines – again we tested this for Out & Out and based on those results, booked the next 2 issues.

AJ know from experience that continuing to adopt the same approaches and rejecting new ideas will see your results decline. Embracing new concepts and methods will keep your results healthy and can even grow your business. It takes a strong and trusting relationship between client, agency and media owner but can pay dividends for all involved.

To learn more about how AJ can take you in a new direction contact Lesley Bowman on 01225 758222 or email lesley@aja.co.uk.