That wasn’t the actual headline of our new effectiveness study The Bottom Line, but it‘s a good alternative.
Three years ago, we launched the biggest ever effectiveness project for news brands (Planning for Profit) to demonstrate that news brands in all their forms and across all formats and platforms are somewhere that brands should be.
The work was based on one key principle – if brands optimise the proportion of news brands of their total campaign budget, they will significantly improve returns to the bottom line, the profit that comes from your total advertising campaign.
We uncovered that there was widespread under-investment in news brands, and this was having negative results for brands, who were missing out on £3 billion pounds of potential profit.
There are of course a myriad of different ways to build a media plan, and many different options for which channels to use, but news brands were not being given due consideration and the opportunity to prove their effectiveness.
We know from other work we have carried out that news brands are exactly the place where brands should be advertising.
They provide trusted, quality journalism, that people have always valued, but even more so since the pandemic (our World Without News study launched last autumn revealed that 66% of people value journalism more since the pandemic).
And that trusted environment has a significant benefit for advertisers.
Advertising in news brands has a greater impact because people spend longer with them, and they have a higher propensity to look at, and dwell on, the ads. And neuroscience shows that advertising in news brands is much more likely to be committed to long-term memory, which is proven to link to sales.
So, with the weight of evidence in favour of news brands, we threw down the gauntlet to advertisers, challenging them to reconsider news brands and to give them a more optimal share of investment. Of course, some were getting it right and we applaud them for it. But more needed to be done.
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then – not least a global pandemic. We wanted to find out whether the challenge had been accepted. Or indeed if the pandemic had wreaked even more havoc.
Since our original work and prior to the pandemic, investment in news brands was returning to growth with over £1bn in revenue in 2019 and three-quarters of consecutive growth according to AA/WARC figures.
Had the increased investment translated into profit?
With bated breath, we revisited the study, adding on three more years of data. We now have a decade of effectiveness data, and a meta-analysis of 1,012 separate econometric models, including during the worst of the pandemic.
We found that the investment was bearing fruit. Across 2018 and 2019, there was a rise in profits from advertising as advertisers invested more in news brands. The profit gap had gone from £3bn to just over £2.6bn. Now clearly the pandemic affected all media, and so there was a bit of a setback. However, by the end of 2020, the profit gap was just over £2.7bn, a 10% improvement, or a total of £268m worth of additional profit.
And the future is bright, with profit from news brand investment forecast to rise by up to £1bn by 2025.
We know from the most recent AA/WARC figures that spend is returning as recovery from the pandemic continues. National news brands are forecast to grow by 7.6% this year with digital up by over 13%. So, we’ve taken the performance over the last three years and forecast forward. Even allowing for the pandemic, there is the potential for rising profit – and that missing £3bn could be as low as £2.1bn by 2025. That’s an additional £1bn in profit.
So, as we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic, we’re dusting off that gauntlet and giving advertisers and agencies a fresh challenge to give news brands the opportunity to prove they can deliver returns to the bottom line.
Director of Research and Insight, Newsworks
About: Newsworks is the marketing body for the UK’s national news publishers. We champion the importance of a free press and lead collaboration across the industry to support the future for trusted journalism. Why? Because for readers. For society. For brands. Journalism matters. More now than ever.