Channel surfing: combining print and TV campaigns

A great blend to influence audiences.

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The era of single-medium advertising campaigns is over, and for good reason. Evidence over the past 25 years shows multiplatform campaigns outperform single-medium campaigns at building brands and driving sales. It also shows newspapers play a strong role in delivering these outcomes. In today’s complex multi-media world, newspapers offer considerable advantages that work best in combination with other media, especially television. Newspapers reinforce messages in other media, have unique advantages in building reach, and provide additional depth to a campaign on both informational and action measures.

This article, the first of five, will focus on how newspapers work with television to create powerful advertising campaigns.

Keeping the end in sight

Before looking at what newspaper ads bring to the mix, it’s important to step back and consider the broader context. 

Advertising campaigns aren’t created in a vacuum. They reflect the overall marketing objectives of the advertiser.

A campaign for a market leader that dominates the category is likely to have a strong emphasis on client retention; a mid-level brand may be concentrating on lifting frequency of purchase, while a campaign for a new entrant will have a focus on trial.

One thing common to all successful campaigns is that the objectives will involve what people think about the brand, and actions people take as a result of seeing the ad.

The first critical factor in what people think about the brand is simply, “do they even consider the brand?” Making potential buyers aware of a brand at the time of a purchase decision, “brand salience”, is an essential goal for any advertiser.

This is a simple and obvious point, but difficult to achieve. Consumers are exposed to massive numbers of ads, typically estimated around 600 per day.1 Yet even many frequently purchased products, such as margarine, are only bought eight times a year by any single buyer, and on average they’ll only buy any given brand in the category once or twice a year.2

Brand salience: getting remembered when it matters

So if consumers are bombarded with ads for brands they rarely buy, how can advertising make a difference?

Brand salience doesn’t require a great deal of effort from consumers. Experience is a key driver (the brand we buy next time is probably a brand we’ve bought before), and most advertising works at a very low level of attention. 

Ads don’t work by hammering the consumer into submission, and rarely by persuading them. More often they use language, visuals and emotional associations to build memory structures around the brand, and linking it to the category. At some later time, when the consumer is in a position to make a purchase decision (in the aisle at the supermarket, in the car looking for a fast food restaurant, discussing changing banks with their partner) these memory structures put the brand into the consideration set.

Different media, different effects

Media selection matters because ads in different media vary in how they create memory structures.

Television, through the use of audio-visual images and movement, offers the opportunity for high-impact executions. It has the capacity to quickly establish verbal and visual associations with a brand and the category. It is highly effective for building emotional appeal. These aspects, especially in regard to building emotional associations, can cause significant increases in advertising effects.3

Newspapers offer different complementary advantages. Being a high-attention medium they are more effective at adding detail and dealing with complexity than television – a point to be covered in more detail in a later article.4

  • A high-attention medium gives newspapers the advantage in reinforcing memory structures created in other advertising media.
  • Newspaper ads only take an instant to trigger a response. Readers scanning across a page can recognise images they’ve seen in other media in milliseconds.
  • Using common elements across campaigns in print–both visual elements such as talent and logos, but also verbal cues such as a tagline– serves to reactivate existing memory structures, which strengthens those associations. 6
  • Newspapers quickly and affordably tailor different creative executions aimed at specific readerships. This allows advertisers to reuse existing elements, and extend them to communicate new aspects about a brand.
  • While a single execution is prone to wear-out, variations on a theme can broaden the appeal to people who may not have responded to the original, and serve to keep it fresh for those who liked the first ad.
  • Doing this on television can be cost-prohibitive. The production costs alone for a series of 10 ads on television can easily run into millions of dollars. A series of 10 newspaper ads can be produced for thousands.

Halo effect

A more subtle, but more powerful effect, comes from the halo effect of the editorial environment. This has the effect of transferring characteristics from the publication to ads in that publication, adding emotional overtones to the brand’s memory structures.This effect is reflected in how people respond to ads in different media. 

While television commercials outperform newspaper advertising in terms of disruption and entertainment–the ability of TV to cut-through and emotionally engage viewers–newspaper ads win on attributes such as trust, consideration and action.8

Getting action is key but as mentioned earlier, brands can differ in their sales objectives. Some focus on retention, others on re-purchase, or trial.

Brand salience is critical in all three cases. For dominant brands salience may be sufficient to keep many customers coming back, but for those trying to climb the purchase consideration ladder this is less likely to be true. In those cases it’s important to provide additional leverage to prompt purchase.

This is where the superior ability of newspaper advertising to drive action comes to the fore. It offers a wider range of prompts–advertised items in a supermarket, details on holiday packages, multiple models and prices for a range of cars–that increases the likelihood of offering something of interest to a reader.

Plus newspapers allow readers to take as much time as they like to process and evaluate an offer. Coupled with the fact that many readers come to newspapers for specific content, such as motoring sections, travel pages, business and finance, and entertainment, the chances of engaging readers looking to take action are high.

The sum is greater than the parts

  • Television advertising is effective at creating impact and engaging emotions, which serve to build memory structures. The downside is that its effects are often narrowed by the constraints of a 30-second TVC.
  • Newspapers can exploit the associations established by the TV commercial, reactivating the existing network of memory structures, and adding additional strands to them. In the process, it deepens the trust and consideration, and increases the likelihood of the reader taking action.
  • Establishing the groundwork with television, and then building on this with newspapers, is a more effective approach than relying on television alone.



2 Nielsen (2007), mentioned in Byron Sharp’s 2010 book How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know.

3 Understanding Television Audiences, Warc Best Practice March 2014, Andrew Green

4 What we know about major media channels, Warc Exclusive, May 2014

5 The search for information in newspaper advertising, Journal of Advertising Research, Leo Bogart and Stuart Tolley, 1988

6 ‘And Now for Something Completely Different’ Current thinking About the Brain Means we Need to Change the Way Brands are Researched, Market Research Society: Annual Conference, 2000, Robert Heath and Jon Howard-Spink

7 Measuring involvement with editorial content: conceptualization, scale development, and the effects on advertising, Edward Malthouse and Bobby J. Calder, ESOMAR, Worldwide Multi Media Measurement (WM3), Dublin, June 2007

8 A Comparison of the Effectiveness of Marketing Communication Channels: Perspectives from Both Receivers and Senders, Peter J Danaher and John R Rossiter, 2001

The author: Brian Rock is Research & Insights Manager at The Newspaper Works. Previous experience includes 11 years as Strategic Insights Manager at Network TEN, 3 years as Research Director at Mitchell Media Partners, and 8 years lecturing in Advertising and Marketing at RMIT University.

We hope you have enjoyed the information presented here. Connect with us for more insights and news about our industry.

If you have any questions or if you want to know more about how to apply the strategies discussed, please get in touch: or 02 96926300

View Part Two of the series here.

View Part Three of the series here.

View Part Four of the series here.

View Part Five of the series here.


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