Once the domain of trade titles, companies' marketing plans are now
news for mainstream media outlets. David Ward looks at how the sector
has grown in the past few years.
It's been a big year for advertising and marketing reporters. Most beat
reporters spent 2001 covering cutbacks and the death of title after
title. As if that wasn't a big story in itself, the September 11 attacks
forced advertisers off the airwaves for days.
When they were permitted back, creatives were left wondering about the
right tone to use.
Such coverage is a far cry from the narrow market it was in the
"Fifteen to 20 years ago, you didn't read a lot about advertising and
marketing in The Wall Street Journal," says Fred Pfaff, president of New
York-based Fred Pfaff, Inc. "Now there's a ton of it. You're also
finding more people wanting to cover (marketing) stories in the
The rising number of advertising and marketing reporters has turned this
area into a very competitive business. Every publication wants
exclusives, which means pitching requires a surgical approach rather
than a broad brush.
"The competitiveness of being the first to announce information on new
campaigns has pretty much created a quickest-draw mentality," says Clint
Garwood, account supervisor and publicist for Chicago-based Marketing
Support. "It's nice for PR people who want to place their clients'
stories, but ultimately it may leave the audience wanting more."
The leading publications in the advertising field - such as Advertising
Age, BrandWeek and AdWeek - would argue that they do offer more. In
fact, they led much of the debate and analysis that surrounded the
failure of most internet-based advertising models.
"There's a lot of soul searching going on in the industry, and a lot of
people are looking at what works online and what doesn't," notes Masha
Geller, editor-in-chief of trade outlet Media Post. Geller says
traditional print and broadcast advertising are also being scrutinized
by media buyers, although not to the same degree as their online
counterparts, since traditional outlets have a long track record of
But advertising and marketing can be a cynical business, especially
among the media buyers who hear a variety of pitches from news and
entertainment outlets looking for their dollars. Geller concedes that
some of the cynicism of media buyers about various outlets seeps into
the press, but she argues that much of it is simply a reaction to the
hype that surrounds the business.
Advertising and marketing writers are inundated with news about
"marcoms": a company's marketing plans. "My pet peeves are releases
filled with words like 'leading edge' and 'monetizing,' which isn't even
a real word," Geller adds.
Leading the charge into new markets
Lisa Skriloff, president of NY-based Multicultural Marketing Resources,
credits the advertising and marketing outlets with aggressively
expanding their coverage of the ethnic markets. "Reporters are beginning
to ask on their own about the multicultural campaign," Skriloff says.
This can often lead to deeper coverage since a brand may have one agency
handle mainstream advertising and three others on board for the
Hispanic, Asian-American, and African-American markets.
Marketing professionals are noting the increased difficulty in pitching
the media on their own stories since the September 11 attacks.
Skriloff's advice for pitching advertising reporters in this climate is
to stick to a hard news angle, and make sure that the reporters have the
story before the campaign breaks. "If you can supply the creative before
the campaign, that really helps," she says, adding, "But that's not
always easy to do given that a lot of commercials aren't finished until
right before they air."
Advertising as an economic indicator
Pfaff points out that advertising has become an important barometer for
measuring the nation's economic health, and the reporters who cover the
beat take that issue seriously. "Today, most publications have limited
space and limited appetite for non-essential news," he notes. "The
reporters are all demanding some context to it, and everybody wants to
wrap their story around an overall economy trend."
These days, however, it appears that the launch of a new campaign
doesn't necessarily warrant coverage. "There's a greater focus on
pre- and post-campaign evaluation across the board," says Scott McGaugh,
EVP of San Diego-based Matthews/Mark. "The trade publications are a lot
more outcome-oriented as opposed to output-oriented."
In the past, virtually every midsize newspaper had at least one reporter
focusing on the local ad and marketing environment. McGaugh says that
many of them have cut back this local angle in favor of nationally
syndicated coverage, although he adds that much of that slack is being
taken up by urban business journals. Outside of advertising hotbeds like
New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, advertising coverage is
often handled by general business reporters.
But nationally, advertising coverage is on the rise. Among the leading
reporters are The New York Times' Stuart Elliott, Joyce Barnathan of
Business Week, Melanie Wells of Forbes magazine, Bruce Horowitz of USA
Today, the Chicago Tribune's Jim Kirk, and Lewis Lazare of the Chicago
The list of leading trade reporters includes Geller of Media Post, Gene
Ely of Media Life, Advertising Age's Laurel Wentz, and Deborah Goldman
David Kratz, CEO of Magnet Communications, says that overall advertising
and marketing journalism has "definitely been expanding and improving
over the past few years." Furthermore, Kratz advises PR executives to
take a look at current events coverage to gain clues as to what works
and what doesn't.
The launch of new TV commercials is also gaining greater exposure in the
general interest press, but often it tends to be reviewed more for its
entertainment value than anything else. "It's a lot easier to write a
content review for a new campaign than it is to remark on the
effectiveness of the campaign or its meaningfulness to an audience,"
says Marketing Support's Garwood. "Proving impact is tricky, and much
more complex than reporting that Company X bought space on Network
This phenomena reaches a crescendo when companies compete to come up
with the most memorable ads to air during the Super Bowl. Magnet's Kratz
says this type of coverage is very valid, pointing out that how a person
reacts to an ad is very subjective and similar to how they react to a
movie, TV show, or song. "So you can treat advertising like movie
The Super Bowl ads are very much about positioning, and many don't have
a call to action," he says.
WHERE TO GO
The New York Times; The Washington Post; Chicago Tribune;
Chicago Sun-Times; USA Today; Los Angeles Times
Business Week; Fortune; Forbes; New York; Red Herring
Advertising Age; Ad Week; Brand Week; Media Week; Out To
Mediapost.com; Medialifemagazine.com; Adweek.com; Adage.com