The New Age turns to old tactics

2010-10-02 15:05

Marketing a new media product to a saturated and cynical audience is a brand manager’s worst nightmare because, ultimately, the manager is trying to convince us to try, and then buy, something we have no real desire for.

Media consumption is an ­entrenched habit – whether it be 10 minutes of John Robbie in the morning, a scan through Business Day or the Daily Sun or a quick evening eyeballing of a national television newscast.

It’s a habit that is almost impossible to break.Media consumers know what they like.

Most can’t be bothered to change, and if they are going to form a new habit there has to be a compelling reason to do so.

Parting with money is the principal determining factor – ­given the amount of free online content available – and while readers, listeners or viewers do not say it quite in this clichéd marketing speak, they are really asking if the value proposition of a new entrant is better than their existing choice.

I’m not sure if The New Age newspaper, which we still await with bated breath, has fully grasped the concept of a compelling, easy-to-understand debut marketing campaign.

In order to pique early interest and expectation, the brand being born amid some political controversy would be better served by telling prospective readers what it can offer that The Star or the Cape Times cannot right now.

Bluntly put, are there more or better sports and news pages? Are there exciting and provocative new columnists who will cause ­trouble?

And will I be paying more or less every morning for the ­privilege of digesting all of this?In advertising terms this is called a teaser campaign.

The ­paper, however, has opted for the sometimes confusing, well­trodden idea of showing a deliberately ambiguous billboard image and then posing a leading question.

On one billboard we see a picture of a policeman in what could either be a close-up confrontation with a crowd or, if imagined from a reverse angle, helping ­others by holding a crowd back.

The headline reads: “Brutality or Protection?”

The hoarding has been strategically placed outside a ­police station.

There are several other riffs on the theme.Another hoarding is erected on the perimeter of a dusty Soweto and shows a tranquil, contrasting picture of a dwelling in the ­township, with the question, Ekasi or Egoli? designed to provoke ­debate about a person’s positive or negative relationship with Jozi.

All of these ideas stem from a brand premise that the newspaper plans to see both sides of the story and will deliver on its mission statement to view the country from a “glass is half full” perspective.The idea here is not entirely new.

When the public broadcaster had some marketing money a few years back, SAfm used a similar concept of using contrasting ­pictures to serve a payoff line about starting a conversation.

I’ve seen similar campaigns in the US and Europe that try to position media players as proactive, provocative and ­balanced. So strike one against The New Age for a little creative recycling.

It’s also worth pointing out that some of the smaller payoff lines on the billboards are strangely familiar: “News as it is” comes very close to The Star’s grammatical mishmash some years ago of “Telling it like it is”. Strike two. And strike three?

For cliché abuse as a brand descriptor – “the bigger picture” and “balanced ­reporting” were probably being hawked around in 1884 when John Jabavu was marketing Imvo ­Zabantsundu.

The New Age will no doubt be a welcome addition to the media firmament in South Africa, ­providing another voice and ­perhaps a clearer idea of what ­government is thinking and planning.

But if it is going to sell papers and knock rivals off their perches, its initial marketing message needs to be a little less lofty and a lot more offering-specific.

Newspaperland is a jungle where prisoners are not taken; they are eaten.

» Maggs is a media commentator 

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.