In the cutthroat world of newspaper and magazine publishing, it has been fairly predictable that pretty much all the competitors of The New Age have been vociferous about parastatals and other advertiser supporting the paper when it doesn't have Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) certification.
The argument put forward is that if you don't have an ABC certificate no-one should be placing advertising with you.
Well, it's not actually that simple.
Doing it the hard way
Certainly, it remains a mystery to me as to why the New Age doesn't want to go the ABC route and I cannot blame its detractors for leaping to the obvious conclusion that its sales actually suck. Any print publication that doesn't have that little ABC logo on its cover is actually going about its business the hard way.
I am one of those who advise my clients to tread carefully when dealing with publications that don't have regular ABC audits.
But, having said that, I certainly don't just base my decisions solely on an ABC certificate. Unfortunately, too many media buyers do just that and it's wrong.
It's not just about numbers
For a start, numbers really don't mean anything. As a very simple example, the Sunday Times ABC figures have always been impressive but if an advertiser only wants to reach readers in Sandton then it would be silly to place an ad in the Sunday Times but rather plumb for the Sandston Chronicle
The point is, it is vital that in any advertising in any medium, the number of potential customers for a product or service is critical to the decision. The days of shotgun tactics are gone because it is simply far too expensive and often just plain wasteful.
But, back to New Age. I have no idea how they conduct their advertising sales but I would imagine that like every newspaper it has documentary records of its sales. The only difference being that most other newspapers have those records audited by the ABC.
However, I am fairly certain that in its sales pitch to advertisers New Age probably makes all its sales data available for scrutiny. And whether their clients believe the figures or not will depend on the credibility and selling ability of the advertising rep. Advertising is also a question of quality not quantity when it comes to viewership, readership and listenership numbers.
It pays to look beyond the numbers
So, while I am at a loss to understand why the New Age does not go the ABC route, it would be wrong to suggest that those parastatals and private sector companies that are advertising in the newspaper are just doing so in complete ignorance of the New Age sales and reach. Look, I am quite sure that some are. But then, you get those advertisers in every medium. And I have yet to hear of a mass medium that actually turns down advertising because it feels that the client's money is not being spent efficiently.
Just look at some of those government ads that feature a massive photo of a minister and a lot of hot air? The bulk of those has no advertising value at all and is just pure egomania at work.
I am no apologist for New Age but it does get up my nose when it is suggested that ABC figures are the only measure by which one should choose an effective print advertising medium. Even the ABC will agree with that, I'm sure.
Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
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Come, now Chris. When it comes to public money -- yours and mine, that the parastatals feel so free to throw at various bloodsuckers -- probity equals ABC. If companies are stupid enough to spend recklessly, they have auditors, shareholders, staff and customers to answer to, Another extreme example is the carpetbaggers who offer their incomparable "Arrow" awards in silver, gold, platinum, diamond and whatever. Acting for an employer 25 years ago that was "honoured" to have been "identified" by one of the carpetbaggers' "surveys" as being outstanding at some or other aspect of business (probably banking, seeing it happened to be Standard Bank). I was asked to inquire at that time what the bank might expect in return (apart from the Arrow) for the scores of thousands it was being asked to contribute towards the "costs" of printing a magazine containing the "survey" results. Why, I was told, the bank would receive a certain number of copies and so would all subscribers to the magazine. And how many of these were there, I asked. Answer: 40. About as many as the carpetbagger had staff. So that was to be R1000 per paid reader. Do companies and parastatals that proudly display their hard-earned "Arrows" in their boardrooms, reception areas or staff canteens realise that what an Arrow really says about them is they are the vain and gullible victims of some of the most crafty corporate vanity scammers (who even managed to con the marketing institute into making them its official journal for a while). At last count, the carpetbaggers were still at it. Just like the Guptas, but I suppose in today's money, R3000 a head revenue per plate of breakfast served is probably smaller takings than the carpetbagger's share in the late '80s. So if you want to spend your R40000 on a PMR award or R3000 for breakfast che Atul, go ahead. Just don't expect anybody to think it's OK for public money to continue to be thrown at the scumbags.