News UK aims to create new universal ad effectiveness metric

News UK is on the verge of signing a deal with a “prominent” research house and at least one other media owner outside the newspaper industry to commission a study it hopes will create a new universal tradeable metric to determine the success of advertising across platforms.

The Sun
The Sun’s owner News UK is to commission a major research study, alongside a partner media owner, that it hopes will create a universal ad effectiveness metric.

The Times and The Sun owner is also hoping the research will help it justify why it charges higher ad rates than its rivals for brands to reach its “influential” audience of paying subscribers across print and digital, by creating a metric based on “outcomes rather than input”.

The Sun joined sister title The Times in charging for its online content in August last year and by December had accrued 117,000 digital subscribers.

“The epiphany moment”

Paul Hayes, managing director of News UK Commercial, told Marketing Week his “epiphany moment” in looking to create a new advertising success metric was speaking just over a year ago to then O2 marketing and consumer director Sally Cowdry who told him: “We are happy to advertise in the Sun, you don’t need to sell me metrics. But the problem at the moment is you can’t even tell me the size of your audience”.

That conversation was one of the factors that led to News UK working with PwC in June last year to release de-duplicated multi-platform audience figures for The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times across print, desktop, tablet and smartphone – but Hayes says there is still more work to be done to create more “progressive” audience measurement metrics.

Hayes adds: “Ten years ago we would have just said we are high reach and have an audience of scale, but nowadays lots of people can say that. That’s why we need to start talking about outcomes and greater ROI. It’s incumbent on media owners to talk about why they and their audiences are distinct.”

The importance of “influence”

The penned research follows a “thought piece” study News UK commissioned research agency Sparkler to conduct late last year. The “Influence” study found that newspaper readers of titles across the sector were far more responsive to advertising and more committed to the news brand if they consume content through both print and tablet devices.

Sean Adams, News UK head of commercial insight, says after presenting the research in January, media agencies have said it is helping them have a “more useful conversation with clients” when it comes to booking their campaigns.

He says of the forthcoming study: “A lot of the research to date in this area has been quite case study based, which is relevant for that brand in that situation but not necessarily to other advertisers.”

Once the research is complete and a potential new metric is put forward, Adams says News UK will look to put a trial programme in place with a number of advertisers across different sectors to test its effectiveness and marketer appetite.

The Sun’s supermarket sweep

The supermarket sector could be one of the verticals involved in the trial. Hayes says this month he is meeting with the chief executives of the UK’s biggest supermarkets to discuss how News UK can help each retailer differentiate itself during the impending price war.

Hayes adds: “We don’t just want to say ‘this price war will be nice for us, we can sell more ads’ but we want to go out proactively and say this is how you can talk to our audience and make your communications more successful and effective.

“Our concern would be that a brand like the Sun would just be used for price. We want to do two things: help marketers how to differentiate themselves as price becomes a hygiene factor and look at what research we can do together to understand the motivations of consumers.”