USA Today To Tie Custom Research To Results In '06 Ad Deals
While some major publishers--especially Conde Nast--are known for including custom research in advertising deals for big marketers, they are generally considered an "added-value" component of the buy. USA Today plans to develop specific research programs to measure the explicit results of the campaigns it will be running for its advertisers.
"It's no secret that advertisers are asking for a better understanding of the ROI they are getting from their media buys," says Susan Lavington, vice president-consumer marketing at USA Today. "They're seeking more transparency and a better understanding of how their ads are working within a media vehicle, especially print."
Lavington, who masterminded the program, also crafted an aggressive advertising campaign breaking on Monday that will associate USA Today as a medium for reaching specific consumers. The ad campaign, which uses a clever twist of the newspaper's recognizable blue, red, green, purple, orange, and yellow section banners, will incorporate the colors into a series of fingerprints representing consumer targets.
As such, some observers might find the paper's campaign to be an allusion to Court TV's long-running "Return On Investigation" ads, which also emphasize the connection between ROI and consumer insights.
In fact, Court TV was the first cable network to strike an advertising deal during last summer's 2005-06 upfront negotiations that specifically tied advertising results to custom research it will be conducting for advertisers. That seminal deal, which was negotiated with ad agency Starcom, was followed by several similar deals with other agencies and another network, The Weather Channel.
But unlike the TV deals, Lavington says the USA Today buys will not be guaranteed for audience delivery--a custom that exists in TV, but not in print. She said that audited audience circulation reports will remain the currency of USA Today's ad deals, but that the new research will provide affirmation and confidence that advertisers are delivering on their goals beyond pure audience delivery.
Lavington said the research will vary depending on the unique needs of the advertisers, and can range from attitudinal or brand perception research to engagement research to actual sales results.
The custom research deals will be extended to USAToday.com, but not to Gannett's Sunday supplement USA Weekend. Lavington said advertisers and agencies will have to make certain minimum commitments to qualify for the program, but that they are essentially the same as the ones stipulated in the publisher's existing merchandising guidelines.