National newspapers, in common with television channels, funnel
great energy and resources into their autumn packages. The broadsheets
traditionally opt for a juicy exclusive book serialisation to woo summer
deserters: the Telegraph has taken the middle-aged route with Michael
Holroyd’s autobiography this year, while the Guardian, playing to its
strengths, has feminist Susan Faludi’s latest thoughts on ’hope for
But the leader of the pack in breaking new ground this September has to
be the Sun, with its clubcard deal with Tesco, offering ’free points
worth pounds 2 off your shopping’. Even allowing for the excitable hype,
there is a smart proposal and huge investment at its core.
The UK’s bestselling paper has struck a high profile alliance with the
country’s largest supermarket chain, famed for competitiveness,
marketing and value for money. The deal, backed by heavy TV promotion,
ensures Tesco’s name is blazed across the paper’s front page day after
day, with acres of promotion inside. But it is also highly appealing to
that elusive group - women newspaper purchasers - who do the bulk of
household buying, too.
It is becoming increasingly important for papers to build partnerships
with high street brands, provided they fit the right image. On this
count, the Sun’s deal with Tesco is perfect. The project to modernise
the Sun has taken many forms in the last 18 months, from more tasteful
page three shots, shorn of leering captions (I recently heard a
distinguished Guardian columnist complimenting editor David Yelland on
the transformation), to the launch of its free internet server,
currantbun, and related promotion of the internet.
The Tesco link also sits neatly with this year’s extended promotion of
Books for Schools, which involved an astonishing nine out of ten UK
schools, and went some way to taking the blokeish edge off the Sun’s
The Daily Mail, which trotted out its Lucky Wallets scheme for a second
outing last weekend, is already countering with a ’20 per cent off
shopping at House of Fraser Stores’ daycard, and I’m sure the links
offering special deals will go on developing. Only this week, the Mirror
was advertising its new deal with Sainsbury’s clubcards on TV. If I had
to draw up a fantasy list, I’d match Marks and Spencer with the Mail,
Ladbrokes with the Star, and the Financial Times with The Conran Shop.
The Guardian is a bit more tricky, but John Lewis might work, with
Virgin Megastores for G2 readers.
The crucial thing, which worries me, is that none of these alliances
affect editorial coverage. But at a time when extending your brand via
the internet is all the rage, it makes me smile to think that real money
is going into schemes which, for all their marketing whizz, force you to
wield the scissors and cut out paper tokens.