Press advertising: equal to TV in building brands

Robert Heath and Stuart McDonald

More money is spent on print in the UK than on any other single medium. Yet anyone who has worked in advertising will know that print advertising is rarely regarded as being capable of launching or maintaining big brands. Most of the money spent on print tends to be on ads designed to dispense quantities of information – retail promotions, car dealer ads, holiday deals, and so on. When print is used thematically, it is usually alongside TV, with TV getting the lion's share of the budget.

But there are some notable exceptions. Stella Artois, the UK's biggest and most profitable lager, was built in the 1980s using print only, and its product credentials are owed entirely to the success of the inspired 'reassuringly expensive' print campaign (1). The success of Boddingtons, at one stage the UK's most successful branded bitter, was likewise due to its print campaign, and the much-lauded TV advertising is thought to have added little to the brand's business success. Another of the UK's most successful brands – BMW – created its reputation in the late 1980s using only print media. And BMW's success serves to illustrate the dominance of TV, because it was only the catastrophic research results for the TV execution that resulted in it being withdrawn and print being adopted as the main medium.