AAN Marketing a Success with Gambit Advertisers

Marketing materials help ad reps sell

AAN’s latest gambit to gain a foothold with desirable advertisers for its member publications has found a champion in an aptly named newspaper.

As advertising director for Gambit Weekly, New Orleans’ alternative paper, you may think Sandy Stein has it fairly easy — after all, hers is a city well-known for excess spending and revelry. It’s also a market crowded with competing media. While this makes selling ad space in Gambit a challenge, the overall financial opportunity is promising.

“Three new publications (Southern Woman Magazine, At Home Magazine and a women’s monthly to start up in 2003 from MC Media) saw fit to bring their product to New Orleans, so the dollars must be out there,” she reasons.

In January, Stein saw a good way to go after those dollars, with some help from AAN. The association took a booth at the National Automobile Dealers Association trade show in New Orleans to present the benefits of advertising in alternative newsweeklies. The automotive industry has traditionally given its print dollars to dailies and mainstream weeklies, perhaps because of the perception that alternative papers are only for college kids — who usually can’t afford new cars.

Not so, was the message of an ad campaign Virginia-based advertising firm Abrials & Partners created for AAN. The campaign is directed at the auto and recruitment industries, as well as other businesses whose perception of the alternative industry needs updating. Slicks in orange and green, with plenty of clean space and graphics of young, hip professionals having fun illustrate the accompanying Media Audit numbers, which show alternatives reaching exactly the audiences these industries target — professionals old enough to earn big bucks and young enough to spend their considerable loose change.

“We loved it the minute we saw it,” Stein says of the campaign, describing the materials as sleek and beautiful. “The best thing for me is we’re all slammed all the time, and there’s no use to reinvent the wheel — it just allows us to more custom-design a proposal.”

Gambit adopted the campaign’s template to create locally produced materials to snag the auto industry. Stein’s first sale using the materials was through an agency that found the slicks impressive enough to recommend a buy to their client, a local car dealer.

Her ad reps have since found that potential advertisers in other industries not only think the pieces are attractive, but informative. They show Gambit’s lock on New Orleans shoppers as well as the market influence alternative newspapers wield nationwide. It has helped Gambit’s salespeople bring on board new advertisers such as doctors, health clubs, hospitals and restaurants.

Stein plans to continue to expand Gambit’s monthly “Home Smart” home advertising magazine using the AAN sales materials, as well as the paper’s health care feature section. She sees a promising market among affluent readers for doctors and dentists offering cosmetic and elective dental surgery, for example.

“I didn’t use any sort of organized tracking,” Stein says. “I can just tell you we have gotten (positive) feedback” from advertisers regarding the look of the marketing materials.

Gambit enjoys a 50,000 Tuesday circulation in a market area of nearly a million people. Since January 2002, Stein has seen page yield increase 2.5 percent and sales revenues rise 3.5 percent. In addition, its recent Fall Restaurant Guide made the last issue of October the largest paper Gambit has put out in its 20 years, with ad sales up 10 percent over last year’s issue.

Given the impact of the economy on the newspaper industry over the past few years, these numbers mean even more. While the dining guide was larger this year, Stein hears restaurateurs across the board lamenting their business is down by about 25 percent. She’s also heard this figure referring to tourism, a heavy part of the New Orleans economy.

“I think lots of people would just be happy being flat,” she says of Gambit’s growth.

The marketing materials, which also include a multi-media presentation, are available from AAN’s national office. Call Sales and Marketing Manager Elaine Clisham at (202) 822-1955 or e-mail eclisham@aan.org.

Ann Hinch is a freelance writer based in Knoxville, Tenn.