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Small Wyoming daily reaches for big advertising concept

Monday, March 1, 2004

By Tara McMeekin

Many smaller newspapers lack the resources and creative staff to chase after big advertisers in their markets because they feel they have little to offer in terms of creative advertising strategies.

The (Cheyenne) Wyoming Tribune-Eagle late last year crafted its own solution to that problem by tapping into the deep reservoir of creative advertising content that goes unused.

To do that, the Tribune-Eagle (daily, 15,517; Sunday, 17,111) installed software from Thought Equity Inc., a Denver firm that gives newspapers access to unused ideas, ad layout designs and artwork from agencies and creative shops nationwide.

"They're selling the ideas that didn't get used, which I think is a fantastic concept," said Scott Walker, the Tribune-Eagle's vice president of operations.

 Click to enlarge

Thought Equity provides concepts that newspapers can use to take to advertisers. As shown above, the concepts can be tailored to fit a particular market.

The Tribune-Eagle's relatively small size means it's saddled with limited resources; as a result, it can't afford to employ many graphic or creative designers, Walker said.

"We hope that this will give us access to other people's creativity that we can take out and use to get our foot in the door with some new advertising segments," Walker said.

Hard to get
Among those tough-to-attract segments are Cheyenne-area medical and healthcare companies, which include doctor's offices and clinics.

"They've always been afraid to advertise in the past," Walker said.

Thought Equity, he said, has allowed the Tribune-Eagle to present to potential advertisers unique, professional-looking ideas and concepts that are geared toward their particular industry.

Walker said the newspaper does not intend to sell the concepts "as is" but that they provide a good starting point.

"It would be a door opener and we would end up using the concept with a little different layout or a photograph with a slightly different concept or that type of thing," he said.

The Tribune-Eagle made its first sale last month based on a Thought Equity-archived campaign and Walker said he believes the daily is off to a good start.

"I don't think we're going to get three sales a week off of it because we do our own spec ads," he said. "And it's not something you take out to a car dealer for their big annual sale, it's more for institutional types of ads."

Walker said he's not concerned that a competing newspaper might use the same concept. Once a paper uses a particular campaign, Thought Equity removes it from its database for a 90-day period to reduce the chance of overuse or duplication.

"The chances of our advertiser being down in Denver for the day and opening up the paper and seeing their ad (concept used by another company) is pretty much impossible in the near term," Walker said.

Thought Equity's software lets users search categories and browse concepts that can be turned into tailored advertisements.

Walker said most of his newspaper's advertisers don't expect creative exclusivity anyway because they know that comes with a price.

"They're just looking for something unique or different or really out of the ordinary, so the potential of having that idea shared somewhere else in the country isn't that big of a deal to them," he said.

The Tribune-Eagle installed the software in December and Thought Equity provided the training for newspaper staff. Several of the Tribune-Eagle's staff, including sales people and graphic artists, have access to the software.

React quickly
Walker said that although his sales staff prefers to plan ahead for presentations, the new software can be used to access ideas fairly quickly.

"If you're a busy salesperson and running around and at five minutes before your presentation saying, 'gee, I wish I had something to take with me,' we can also get something that quickly," he added.

Walker said the concepts in Thought Equity's package serve as a foundation for further discussion with the paper's advertisers.

"We can always change and bring them something different or evolve it, which is really what we expect to do with it," Walker said.

He also said the software has given his newspaper access to quality photography. The majority of the Tribune-Eagle's advertisers - about 98 percent - do not have agencies or creative shops designing ads for them, Walker said.

"Our typical advertiser is somebody like a car dealer who runs a sale every week and runs 300 cars in their ad, and this thing doesn't really fit for that," Walker said. But Thought Equity's software will let the Tribune-Eagle go to companies and organizations that don't yet advertise heavily in the paper, Walker said.

"I'm really sold on the concept."

Thought Equity's fees are based on the circulation of a newspaper and its market size. Customers also pay a flat monthly fee, regardless of the number of campaign ideas used.


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