Overview of this campaign
In late 2018, anxiety around the integrity of news reporting was high. Cambridge Analytica and other ‘fake news’ scandals had been in the headlines for much of the year. Across the world, ill-informed online content was seen to be feeding an acute polarisation of public opinion that was beginning to impact on world events.
Interestingly however, a series of research documents (including a local Colmar Brunton poll) showed a rise in the level of trust in newspapers, no doubt spurred by the uncertainly surrounding online content.
With trust such a hot topic – and mindful of plans to launch an online subscription model later in 2019 – NZME commissioned a press campaign in The New Zealand Herald and its sister regional titles. Dubbed ‘Trust in Print’ it would seek to reaffirm the position of NZME’s news brands as pillars of trust and truth in uncertain times – and to shine a light on what lies behind it: a commitment to quality journalism and better serving NZ communities.
The latter would be a point well made. NZME’s principal competitor had recently closed a number of its regional mastheads, leaving an NZME title as the sole remaining provider in some areas. Here was a clear opportunity to underscore its commitment to serving provincial New Zealand.
Broadly however the objective was one of communicating value – primarily to maintain print readership figures (by making readers feel positive about their decision to read NZME newspapers), but also to prepare the ground for the introduction of the online paywall by underscoring the worth of content and trust in NZME’s mastheads.
Advertising would be a concern too. The campaign would also remind business of the power of print, highlighting its ability to create positive brand associations within a trusted news environment.
Together executions would beg the same question: when New Zealanders seek an accurate picture of what’s going on in the world, who, ultimately, should they trust?
Results for this campaign
Our campaign addressed the issue of trust head-on, inviting the reader to consider the value of NZME news brands in a chaotic age of bias and misinformation.
Appropriate to our theme, we kept the design ‘straight-up’, drawing the reader’s eye to a series of powerful headlines, black on white. A confident, copy-led approach was effective in presenting the bare-faced truth, boldly and fearlessly, without bells and whistles. To avoid repetition, we issued new headline every day, keeping the campaign fresh and stimulating.
The use of white space was critical. In an busy environment, the ads were difficult to ignore, the space lending them a greater gravity. To demonstrate commitment where possible we created spaces outside of our advertising grid – our messaging appeared in place of missing news articles, or split across consecutive and facing pages. To cap it all, we launched with a striking takeover of the cover and inside cover, taking our message to newsstands across the country.
We drew considerable interest from readers (pleased to have their good choice recognised!) with a host of comments on social media. We even won praise from one of our competitors, who ran a story highlighting the campaign (https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/01/31/421167/mediaroom-2).
So began several months of good news. Readership results* a few months later confirmed a 4.3% rise in the Herald’s daily brand audience year-on-year, and an average print readership up 19,000 readers to 472,000. The Herald’s Monday edition alone increased by 42,000, and across the week – factoring in regional titles – NZME newspapers were found to reach over one million Kiwis (the NZ population is 4.8 million), a rise of 3% year-on-year.
Agency and direct print advertising targets exceeded target for H1 2019, Q2-4 subscriber churn was reduced by 14% compared to Q1 – and when Herald Premium launched in late April, the paid online subscription reached its 12-month target of 10,000 (based on analysis of subscription services overseas)…. in just six weeks.