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And the winner is ...

Each year, the Newspaper Society’s Circulation, Editorial & Promotions Awards recognises the most innovative and successful promotional campaigns from across the regional press. Austen Dack has trawled through this year’s entries and here highlights some of the work that particularly stood out.

By Austen Dack

Are our regional newspapers still creating winning competitions and reader offers and, if so, do they drive casual sale?

I have been taking a look at some of the recent marketing activity from publishers across the UK, to see if sales promotion still creates the same amount of interest in a time critical, media muddled market place, as the promotions say of the early nineties did - such as bingo and game cards?

This year’s Newspaper Society editorial and sales promotions awards threw up some very interesting nominations and winners and gives us a steer as to what works in the regional press at the moment.

Examine Your Readership

In July 2006, the South Wales Evening Post team surveyed schools within their circulation area for their views on what equipment, as a prize, would stimulate interest in a future in-paper promotion. They received scores of ideas, but in general the message was the same; "We need high-tech equipment plus hands-on / craft materials."

The promotions team came up with the concept "Treasure Island". The idea behind the promotion was, schools would have to collect one hundred tokens, which would equal one entry to go into the prize draw that would be drawn at random. The winning school would win £5,000 to spend on supplies and equipment to improve the standard of their school; in addition there were also two runner up prizes of a computer for each school. Backing came from the new local cinema, which was showing the Pirates of the Caribbean.

During the four weeks the promotion took place, the South Wales Evening Post sold an additional 6,000 copies, or 1,500 copies per week, and generated over £4,000 worth of net revenue. Over 71,000 tokens were collected.

Key to this success was the editorial backing the promotion received. Regular features ran on the needs of the local schools and how they were getting involved with collecting tokens from the newspaper, fuelling further interest in the promotion.

Pump Up The Volume

In Aberdeen, last year’s spiralling petrol prices were on the minds of both the editorial and marketing departments. The Aberdeen Journal ran a Petrol Price Watch campaign in paper highlighting the daily increase in the cost of fuel. This spawned a new promotion, ‘License to Fill’, for readers to win fuel for their cars for a year, plus daily prizes to fill up their tanks. Promotions executive Cara McCarthy said, "The reaction to the promotion was amazing. We had approaching 10,000 entries in a very short space of time."

Petrol promotions are not new to the regional press, but to my mind are still the best. In rural areas, if you can work with a major petrol retailer, the results can be nothing short of incredible. The Eastern Daily Press and Evening News in Norfolk have been doing just that for a few years now. Every day, they offer 3p per litre off the price of fuel at selected garages across their circulation area. A full tank would yield around £1.50 per trip, far more than the cover price of either newspaper. Banners and POS all point to this fact as soon as you get out of your car.

The Belfast Telegraph ran their own version of this promotion, yielding high sales rises for both the newspaper and participating retailer alike.

They offered 4p off a litre of fuel and £2.50 off a top grade car wash. In total across the two weeks, newspaper sales were increased by 65%, petrol by 35% and grocery by 16% in the outlets taking part.

With smaller garages competing against supermarket prices, these press platforms give them valuable promotional space and deliver much needed footfall, which in turn leads to increased purchase of non fuel related products. Although difficult to set up, I believe petrol promotions to be the best sustainable promotion ever to come out of the regional press.

In time maybe we should look at running a fuel promotion with Tesco across the regional press.

On The Buses!

One of the cleverest promotions out there presently would certainly get Blakey going!

For a two-week period every day in the Argus (Brighton), they printed a bus ticket and offered bus travellers the chance to win a daily cash prize.

To win the cash, readers were required to check if their bus ticket matched the ticket printed each day in the Argus. If the serial number was the same, they could claim that day’s cash prize. Readers of the Argus, during the campaign, shared a £2,000 jackpot.

Over 70,000 people travel on the Brighton and Hove Bus network each day, spread across 250 vehicles. Two A4 posters were displayed on each of the 250 buses. Normally this space is reserved for Brighton and Hove Buses’ internal communication, and advertising on the bus network is not available. This exposure was therefore of huge value to the Argus and had high impact.

The 'Winning Ticket' campaign engaged with this community via a fun and innovative promotion and encouraged additional sale of the Argus.

Making A Meal Of It

Many newspapers are still running meal based offers. It is still a sure fire way of ‘dragging in’ casual readers and also rewarding your regulars.

2-4-1 Summer Dining was a six-week campaign that launched in the Nottingham Post in June. They teamed up with more than 20 restaurants in Nottinghamshire to offer readers 2-4-1 offers on dining throughout the summer months.

The design of the offer was key to communicate the strong offer to the right audience. The Roald Dahl style sketch design was targeted to young professional's aged 20-35 and really captured the lifestyle element of dining.

Readers were asked to collect three out of six vouchers printed over six days to redeem the offer at any of the venues featured that week. It was a very successful campaign with over 1,000 redemptions each week.

It was promoted throughout the county with A2 glossy posters, which were also featured in the participating restaurants gaining extra coverage and increased awareness of the campaign.

With such impressive redemptions for these types of promotions, remember to share data with your advertising colleagues who could sell space to restaurants outside of promotional campaign timescales.

A Bid For Sales Increase

Bid & Win was an immensely innovative promotion devised to promote sale in the Blackpool area.

Tokens were printed in the earpiece of the Gazette daily in the form of Gazette bank notes with a points value. Readers were encouraged to collect as many points as possible to enable them to 'bid' for the fantastic prizes up for grabs.

Downloadable points tokens were available online. The highest number of points bid won the prize featured.

Prizes showcased over a two week period before bidding commenced to create interest and encourage a frenzy of collection. Bidding took place over four weeks by phone and text. The top prize of a conservatory was featured daily, while other auctions ran alongside successively to win prizes such as holidays, TV & DVD, laptop, PSP, ipod, flights, etc.

The promotion was supported by radio campaign, A2 bills, leaflets and roadshows.

Readers responded enthusiastically. Total points bid exceeded two million and a post-promotion survey confirmed that readers purchased the Gazette more frequently than usual to increase their points tally and increase their chance of scooping a prize.

Sales reached a maximum of 100.4% year on year, and 106.5% week on week during the promotion.

Not surprisingly, Bid & Win won the best sales promotion prize at the NS awards this year!


Some sales promotions involve content, which of course can be repeated year on year.

A clever example of this was the free camping guide run in the Guardian recently. It appealed to the millions of people who aspire to live the outdoor life (but who never actually get to take the tent out of the loft - like me!).

A similar guide was printed in Edinburgh last year (for walks) by the Herald which made me buy it on impulse. It was a very useful free walking guide, which targeted well the thousands of tourists staying in the area.

This is a useful way of taking national promotional ideas and free guides and changing them to suit your area and potential readership.

Other successful promotions included 2 for 1 fish supper offers, council tax paid for a year, win a year’s free lottery tickets, win a school mini bus, win a car and an Easter extravaganza, days out offers, free posters, and, yes, even free bingo.

The point of a reader offer or competition is that it is for the reader, and it engages them with something that they know and they think they may have a chance of helping, winning or using.

It is an important part of the mix offered by a publication and can lead to some extra sales and a chance to engage with new advertisers via a different forum.

It is very important for newspaper promotions and editorial departments to work together (and indeed advertising too). Assign a reporter to these planned promotions and it will pay dividends. Promotions which play the community joker will not only give you good results but will also produce some great local content.

So eyes down for a full house………