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Compact success

At this year’s Newspaper Society Awards, the Evening Gazette won the prestigious Sales Promotion of the Year award – for the second year running. It’s “smaller size, bigger picture” campaign, promoting the paper’s switch to compact, was a superbly creative, integrated and effective effort. Here, Lynn Melvin gives the inside story.

By Lynn Melvin

When it comes to the successful promotion of newspapers, the key to success lies in an integrated approach that involves the wider business, and not just the team called ‘Promotions’.

Context for change

The Evening Gazette in Teesside converted from broadsheet to compact format after an investment of £14.6m in a brand new press site facility at Riverside Park in Middlesbrough. The previous press had very limited colour capacity when webbed for a compact and the colour advertising options and revenue enjoyed in the broadsheet could not be lost.

We knew our readers preferred the smaller format. For many years they told us, without prompting, whenever we conducted research on the product or the readership. The design and layout had evolved with this in mind, meaning the paper was often described as ‘a tabloid in a broadsheet jacket’.

The strong circulation performance of recent years meant there was no need to change the world in terms of content and design. In fact, the risk lay in translating what was currently done so well, into a completely different format, because it still needed to feel like the popular Evening Gazette that readers knew and loved.

Conversion development

Extensive study of tabloid newspapers from across the country was undertaken, trying to spot the best and avoid the worst ideas. Mock pages were created and researched through hall tests, before two dummies were produced.

The first concentrated on maintaining a detailed read to ensure that readers did not think the paper had ‘dumbed down’. The second built on the feedback that it needed to be more ‘newsie and with more pace’.

There was new technical equipment for photographers to meet the demands of more pictures, on twice as many pages, and a lot of training on design, story length, copy flow and picture shapes. As part of the new design an innovative approach was taken to advertising with the creation of ‘premium position’ selling; where clients could guarantee positions by paying extra for the best seats in the house. Specific advertising slots were agreed throughout the product; ones that we knew advertising clients most wanted, and for which they were prepared to pay a premium. They included page 1, early right-hand pages, and the back page. So we began selling ourselves more like radio and television – where you need to book early, and pay the premium rate, to get the best slots.

Creation of the campaign

But to bring it all together, we needed to devise a co-ordinated approach to telling everyone about it. For the launch we needed to gain maximum awareness, interest and purchase for both advertising and newspaper sales. Planned activity was to include full advertising client support material, marketing presentations, reader promotions, and a high-profile media campaign.

A deliberate decision was made to use the skills and experience of our internal creative studio staff and no external agency was involved. The team was briefed that we wanted a theme that emphasised the core strengths of the paper, guaranteeing the same quality of content that readers were used to, but just in a compact format. A style that was reassuringly familiar, but one that focussed on the more convenient and easy-to-use format.

We needed just one approach; one treatment, one ‘line’ that formed a cohesive and common bond through all our activity. The team came up with a whole range of ideas, but there was one clear winner. So ‘Smaller size - Bigger picture’ was born.

The concept revolved around the idea that from the comfort of their own armchair, the Evening Gazette puts readers right at the heart of what’s happening around them, be it news, sport or business. The Evening Gazette brings them the bigger picture - direct to their front room.

In the creative images, the armchair represents the idea of the front room, and also the practical way the smaller size paper can be read. It’s not spread on the floor, or over the table. The armchair and reader are always in the centre of the image, while the ‘bigger picture’ changes around them, reflecting what they are reading in their Evening Gazette.

Selection of images

The chair also provides a bright, colourful and instantly recognisable link to all of the images. As the whole campaign was being created in–house, we sought to include as many staff as possible, and everyone pictured in the images actually works for the company.

The first image was created for the advertising support material and it featured the workplace, with the Evening Gazette at the centre of the office. Next, the four main images for the reader campaign were created, each one illustrating a core strength of the paper: news (a court room scene – featuring three senior advertising managers), sport (a crowd scene down at the Riverside Stadium starring a manager from newspaper sales and as many staff as we could spare from across the company on a Friday afternoon), business and industry (with the Tees and the Transporter Bridge, and a Mac operator from pre-press) and finally community (with the whole Teesside landscape as a backdrop ... and a sales advisor from advertising in the chair).

The collection was intended to show emotive and iconic images of Teesside, featuring the people of Teesside, and showing the Evening Gazette at the centre of it all – at the heart and soul of the community.

So, armed with this superb set of unique and very striking images, we set about using them in an equally creative way. We invested in our highest-ever profile campaign.


We booked up a host of the best 48 sheet poster sites in the area, individually picking as many sites as possible, to ensure maximum impact. We also hired a couple of poster trucks to cover vital commuter routes, high traffic junctions and shopping areas. Static trailers were also used for key locations where no 48 sheets were available. We also booked up a fleet of bus backs and sides. There’s nothing much new in that and we did want to take an alternative approach to reaching our readers, so we went after the unique.

We hired and branded six compact ‘Smart’ cars so our team of merchandisers - and the post room courier - could literally take our message out onto the road. We secured two oversized banner sites. These giant 80ft by 20ft images were erected on the scaffolding around the Town Hall in Middlesbrough - working in partnership with the council - and also on a large warehouse next to the A66 - in partnership with a key advertiser.

Our roadshow vehicle and an eye-catching inflatable roadshow stand visited key locations to encourage readers to sample the new format paper. And we had some fun with the red chair itself. We had a family of life-size cut-outs made of foamex and placed them at the point of sale in busy supermarkets to really grab attention.

Spreading the word

Communication of everything we were doing was key. We borrowed a lecture theatre from the university next door and did a full presentation to all company staff. They all left with an eight page colour newsletter and a mousemat of their choice with one of the four main images.

Advertisers were reached by an extensive direct mail campaign after segmenting the client base into frequent, infrequent and lapsed customers. The top advertisers received a gift of a compact camera in a branded gift box at launch time – and a pair of tiny silver ‘compact’ binoculars at Christmas, labelled ‘to see the bigger picture’.

We informed the news retailers in a series of newsletters, and supported them with the more traditional activity of posters, stickers, point-of-sale, dispensers, dump-bins, t-shirts, balloons and various giveaways.

Reader promotion

After the initial launch, to keep the momentum going, the promotion ‘put yourself in the bigger picture’ was launched. It featured weekly prizes of holidays to cities with iconic landmarks like Paris, Venice, Athens and New York. In keeping with the theme, readers collected a jigsaw piece everyday, which they then pieced together to make ‘the bigger picture’ which was a postcard of the red chair.

At the same time, to add daily interest, ‘Smaller size, bigger prizes’ offered a whole range of prizes on the compact theme – such as hand held TV’s, compact cameras, portable DVD players and pocket PCs. The mechanic involved readers finding the red chair within the paper, in order to answer a simple question. This meant the reader needed to traffic the paper to find it each day, giving us the opportunity to place the chair in key platforms where we wanted to drive reader attention.

Co-ordination is key

The whole campaign fuelled a great lift in sales, with over 5% improvement during the main activity and it was the key factor in the Evening Gazette recording a second consecutive ABC increase in July to December. And the key to the success was the integrated approach that was taken to the whole project. The fact that the creative treatment was all produced in-house, and featured a large number of staff members, added to the ownership. The co-ordination of all the elements of the campaign ensured that readers and clients alike received a harmonised message, and one with great impact and great results.