Guardian bids to change press ad model

The Guardian is hoping to trigger a change in the way the newspaper industry sells advertising by introducing a new trading model that sees it sell audiences across platforms rather than separate spaces across its newspaper, desktop, mobile and tablet offerings.

Guardiian Front Page
Guardian home page.

The newspaper publisher is hoping to leverage its leadership as “the UK’s leading quality newspaper” in terms of total audience size across print and desktop, according to September NRS PADD figures, to boost press spend by making buying advertising with newspaper brands more similar to the way TV trading works.

The Guardian is currently presenting the new approach to media agencies to encourage buyers and advertisers to take up one of its new pilot packages. Take-up will inform the way the model will work when it rolls out widely next year.

Media agencies and advertisers can buy across nine audience segments – across age or socio-economic groups, for example – and launch three types of campaigns. Prices start from £100,000 for the most basic campaign up to about £300k for press buying like Vodafone’s recent coverwrapof the paper that was coupled with digital ads, or a more strategic content partnership deal.

Recently installed chief commercial officer David Pemsel is encouraging agencies to and advertisers to challenge its team with creative briefs beyond traditional display as it looks to test and learn with its new strategy in a “West Coast type of way”, a reference to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The Guardian will share research about the effectiveness of the new campaigns with advertisers and agencies ahead of the 2013 roll out.

It cited a case study with an automotive brand, which took out advertising with the paper – including a homepage takeover, in-app iPad ads and use of the Guardian Select network – would have decreased its CPM by £3.50 and achieved about 700,000 more audience impacts if bought using its new cross-platform optimised approach with the same budget.

The Guardian’s senior commercial team are selling on the idea that The Guardian reaches 3.4 million of the 12.7 million “progressive adults” in the UK a week – an audience that tends to be younger, more willing to spend on new products and more aware of ethical issues than readers of other UK quality newspapers like The Telegraph and The Times, it claims.

The roll out of the new model follows some major changes in the Guardian’s senior commercial team, including the departures of global commercial director Chris Pelekanou, executive director of commercial Adam Freeman, content sales and marketing director Chris Lawson and most recently its business director for mobile Steve Wing.

Pemsel is now investing in building out its cross-platform sales department, which will include the hiring of a commercial director to run display and the expansion of the brand partnerships team.

He admits that staff can be “precious” about change but adds that it was needed to grow the organisation’s reach and matching its commercial offering with its editorial output.

In July the company introduced a voluntary redundancy scheme for editorial staff as part of a move to cut costs, of which it has received about 30 applications.

In spite of this and the £75.6m pre-tax loss the Guardian Media Group reported last year, Pemsel claims The Scott Trust’s ownership of the Guardian means it is a strong position to innovate.

Opening his agency roadshow presentation yesterday (12 November) he said: “The Guardian has been a bit schizophrenic, arrogant and lazy in the way it has commercialised itself in the past… We are making a loss but we are supported by a private company with huge assets to get us through this digital transition… Don’t judge us on a daily basis – this is a long term game.”

Guardian News and Media’s print advertising fell 4 per cent to £43.7m in the year to the end of March, while digital revenue rose 26 per cent to £14.7m.

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