UK Ad Buyers ‘Unresponsive’ to Change, Accuses Editor

02 December 2004

A refrain much reprised by UK media owners over the years is that advertising buyers are over-cautious in their attitudes both to new ventures and major changes in established media.

The latest ditty in the songbook was warbled this week by Simon Kelner, the highly respected editor of upmarket UK daily The Independent.

The 'Indie' as it is affectionately known in the trade, originally launched as a broadsheet in 1986 but broke new ground in September 2003 when it switched to tabloid format - the first UK quality daily to do so.

Readers took immediately to the new look, not least because it maintained the paper's editorial integrity. Sales leapt and still continue their upward rise, prompting NewsCorp's The Times to follow suit earlier this year, albeit with less success.

But advertisers and agencies, it seems, were (and remain) less enthused, adopting, much to Kelner's chagrin, their atavistic 'wait and see' stance. Speaking in an International Press Institute debate, he hit out at the caution of an industry that belies its self-image of modernity, adventure and open-mindedness.

"It is no secret that advertising has caused us, at times, some grief. The advertising industry is about the least responsive industry in Britain. It [the tabloid Independent] doesn't fit into their matrix. It's something they haven't had to think about before and they don't want to think about it."

The Kelner confessional continued: "We've had quite a tough time over the last year with advertisers. We're fourth [in the daily quality newspaper market] so we're the easiest for them to beat up." And, he complained, he is "still having the argument" over advertising rates.

Kelner also reiterated his controversial view that "in-depth reporting and analysis" are becoming a bigger driver of newspaper sales than breaking news - which makes him the first national newspaper editor to publicly concede that new media (especially the internet and 24-hour rolling TV news) are usurping newspapers' traditional reportage role.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff