Randy Novak, NSA Media: “We are Witnessing the Mass-Localization of Media and Marketing”

We talked with Randy Novak, Director of Newspaper Strategy at NSA Media. NSA Media is the largest single buyer of newspaper, marriage mail and alternative print media in North America.  Novak advises some of the largest U.S. big box retailers, including WalMart, Home Depot, Sears-Kmart, Safeway, and Walgreen, on their marketing/advertising strategies. The following is a very interesting Q&A.

Portada: What are the main trends you see in 2010?

Randy Novak, Director of Newspaper Strategy at NSA Media: ”We are currently witnessing the mass-localization of media and marketing, with the consumer in the driver’s seat. The challenge for marketers will be tapping into the huge data potential that exists and making the best decisions accordingly. That will require a more fluid media mix, adaptable down to the neighborhood level, with demographics, shopping patterns and media usage habits playing a major role in altering that mix. The advantage for newspapers is that they remain the ultimate local form of media, and deliver information that is relevant, emotional and engaging. They will need to continue to provide that experience regardless of platform, and find ways to leverage that audience. Mobile technology in the U.S. is potentially a huge opportunity for the newspaper industry, especially as intermediate tablet type devices become more commonplace. Consumers will always look for local information, and who is better suited to do so than newspapers?

In terms of the overall media landscape, we continue to see the effects of widespread fragmentation, even within traditional forms of media. For example, within the newspaper channel itself, the overall audience is as large as it’s ever been. However, the formats of delivery continue to evolve and consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with multiple platforms. The challenge for marketers remains reaching that audience with a cohesive strategy, in a tactically relevant manner.

With regard to print, obviously the last couple years have presented a challenge for newspapers. Unfortunately what might be called the “perfect storm” has changed the landscape forever and led to an inordinate amount of negative “buzz.” I like to say “the news became the news.” The good news is that the financial position of most newspaper companies has improved recently, and despite the ongoing declines in circulation, the trend appears to be slowing somewhat. The fact remains, newspapers still deliver a sizable and desirable audience in print; and more importantly, consumers still view advertising as “content” within newspapers, especially printed ad circulars. This is a big differentiator for print, as consumers tend to avoid advertising in other forms of media. Ultimately, marketers need to drive sales, and print does that very well.”

Portada: Out of these trends, what are the main recommendations you derive to provide to your clients?

Randy Novak: “Our clients are all in a similar position in that they are challenged to drive sales and ROI; and the complexity and speed of change in today’s media landscape requires that we are in a position to make the best decisions using the best data available. Fortunately, we have access to data that is more timely, relevant and actionable than ever to drive both sales and ROI.

Getting back to the value of the traditional “newspaper” and how it is fragmenting into to multiple platforms… printed newspapers, niche publications, opt-in ad packages, newspaper web sites, mobile devices, etc., the audience remains connected to the “newspaper” as the provider of information; and if we believe these are desirable demographic groups, we must be comfortable adapting marketing tactics, and relevant messaging accordingly, within the framework of the “newspaper” channel. We are working to help our clients understand these options, and become more comfortable with the reality that the pie may be sliced a little differently, but newspapers remain positioned to deliver the audience regardless of format preference.”

Portada: It is said that banner ads are not easily remembered by consumers, do you have research about print ads?

Randy Novak: “The internet is about speed and convenience, and consumers do not react to advertising in the same manner as they do in print. The challenge is identifying what works, by channel, which gets back to my earlier point of developing a cohesive strategy, and delivering it in a tactically relevant manner. In other words, what works for print, may not work online, and vice-versa. That does not mean there shouldn’t be some connection between the two in messaging, creative, etc.

In regards to research supporting recall for print advertising, the NAA released a great study last year, which supports the notion that when consumers look for advertising, they still turn to newspapers; and there were a number of elements that consumers indicated help drive recall, mostly related to Price/Item listings (80% of readers), Special Sales (91% of readers) and coupons (90% of readers.) This gets back to the advantage of print, where the format is very suitable for the “price and item” environment; and the audience is deeply engaged.”

Portada: Have there been new entrants into the general market newspaper market NSA is buying media for?

Randy Novak: “From a category perspective, we have recently expanded our client base in areas such as retail, pharmacy, auto, financial services, packaged goods, etc. all of which have a need to develop very targeted, locally focused media plans, that can be rolled out nationally. Newspapers are well suited to deliver on those needs because they offer local audiences, targeting capabilities and national scale.”

Portada: FSI, ROP Front Cover Ads, Tie-in with online coupons, what new trends -forms of advertising with high ROI are you seeing?

Randy Novak: “Many of our clients use ad circulars as a large part of their print strategy, however we are seeing interest in other print options such as spadeas, post-it notes and front cover strip ads from a variety of advertisers. In addition, clients are using their print programs to drive activity to their web sites on a more frequent basis. In regards to preprint advertising, we are seeing growth in “opt-in” advertising products to help supplement Sunday newspaper coverage. Consumers still want their weekly ad circulars, even if they do not receive a newspaper.”

Portada: Hispanic newspapers readership has not declined as opposed to the general market; isn't there a strong rationale to convince big box retailers to increase spend? Why is it so difficult to convince them?

Randy Novak: “Very few traditional newspaper advertisers are increasing ad spend in General market or Hispanic newspapers, especially in what has been a fairly challenging economic period. They are simply moving every lever possible to get the most out of their existing investments and drive ROI. If that means making a change to an existing vendor mix in some cases, clients will consider it. The fundamentals of making that decision from a product perspective, are still dictated by such things as client-specific sale cycles (day of week), audience verifiability (i.e. audits), and home delivery (especially for preprint advertisers.)  In terms of newspaper readership, the Hispanic community remains very strong, especially within Spanish-dominant households. The challenge as it relates to opportunities with big box retail advertisers often lies mostly with the need to deliver their ad circulars on a specific day that aligns with the start of their sale cycle, which tends to be Sunday. This is a function of internal POS systems as well as consumer media usage habits, more than anything.”

Related Article:

Big-Box Retailers Still Lag in Hispanic Retail Advertising Investments