When Todd McLeay shifted from NZ Lotteries to the role of chief operating officer at APN NZ, one of the first things he did was go and talk with a bunch of ad agencies and media buyers to see what their feelings were about newspapers. The general consensus was that there was a lot of sparkle about digital but there wasn't too much love for print, mainly because "no-one was making a good case for it". And so the campaign to launch the compact version of the NZ Herald and redesign the website was born. And with the big launch day on Monday, the piece de resistance, a TVC by DraftFCB that shows the important role the newspaper has played in New Zealand's history, goes live tonight.
The starting point for this whole exercise, McLeay says, was going back to the readers to find out how they were consuming media and to ensure the "product we've got is in tune with the way people are living their lives" and to better link the content in print with the content people are increasingly accessing throughout the day online (QR codes will feature in a lot of the printed material).
McLeay has also changed the whole sales structure of APN, linking print, digital and magazines to "provide a one-stop solution". It's also working with APNO and the radio network to try and provide a fully integrated offering for advertisers.
Since he began, McLeay has thought a lot about the importance of free media. And in a world where obfuscation is common, when government initiatives are becoming increasingly complex and expensive, when PR practitioners outnumber journalists, when the level of trust people have in what they see on the internet is decreasing and when money and corporate interests dominate sports and many other areas, he now sees how important quality journalism is and how important trusted brands like newspapers are.
"If we went out of business, who's going to ask the tough questions? Will there be a Facebook page for the issue of the day? ... I never really appreciated the significant role a free press plays in society. I just picked up the paper and didn't really think that much about it."
As McLeay says, if you think about great brands, they hold their ground, even if the world around them has changed. And, as the campaign tagline of 'the more you know, the better' suggests, he believes there's a huge pay-off for having an informed society.
Having worked at a newspaper in Cambodia that required armed guards outside the building 24/7, I can attest that having the freedom to hold people in positions of authority to account or speak your piece is certainly taken for granted in the developed world. But, as Peter Thomson, the guest speaker at yesterday's event, pointed out, cutting editorial staff to save money becomes "a vortex of hell", because the content being created isn't as valuable, not as many people will read it, and advertisers will continue to take their money elsewhere (stay tuned for an opinion piece from Thomson on StopPress soon).
Of course, journalism needs to be funded. And advertising has funded a lot of it in the past. A big chunk of that has dried up and McLeay is under no illusion that it's a very challenging time for the sector, with media companies now being forced to sell the profitable bits to pay off debt, like TradeMe for Fairfax of APN Outdoor for APN. Paywalls are one way news companies are dealing with the challenges, with varying degrees of success, and when asked about APN's plans, he says it is something that's being looked at but it still needs to sort out the right model for it. On the plus side, there are positive signs internationally that paying for content online is slowly becoming more accepted.
"I think we need to find a way, but I don't know what the answer is. We're just looking at different ways."
While it's clear digital will play a role in the future of newspaper businesses, McLeay says there is so much disruption in the industry at the moment that it's hard to know where to steer the ship (for example, he points out that Facebook, the company held up as a shining light of the social era, has lost half its value since its IPO). And there are so many options for newspapers to take, whether it be the leaky paywalls of the New York Times and Financial Times, The Times' completely closed-off paywall, or the Evening Standard's successful shift to free.
As for the TV ad, McLeay says it's about showing some of the important events that have shaped the country and the role the Herald has played in "holding a mirror up to society".
“For 150 years the Herald has been here to shine the light on the important events and issues that have faced New Zealanders," he says. "We’ve celebrated the best and confronted the worst, and this is what we wanted to portray in our brand communications.”
DraftFCB executive creative director Regan Grafton says it wanted to celebrate the important role the paper has played throughout the country’s history.
“We took this insight and came up with a world first way of executing it. We used the NZ Herald's $50 million printing press to create the animation for the launch on huge rolls of paper, similar to the old spinning carousels.”
The DraftFCB creative team enlisted the help of the crew at Assembly to animate the entire ad on the printing press.
“It was a logistical nightmare to pull it off,” says director Jonny Kofoed. “An electronic device had to be designed to plug into a camera to capture each individual frame as it passed through the press. We also had to experiment with thicker paperweights and different inks to overcome challenges with the paper tearing. Yet the hard work was worth it. The end result is truly captivating and a great celebration of the new-look Herald.”
McLeay says the team loved the idea of using the Herald’s printing press in the ad.
“It’s the very foundation of our journey in connecting with our readers and symbolic of our movement forward. As New Zealand’s leading, multi-media news and entertainment brand we are now connecting with our readers in a variety of ways, yet the print press will always be at the heart of where it all started.”
Further launch activity for the new-look Herald incorporates TV, radio, magazine, billboards and online, including directing consumers to the microsite at www.nzherald.co.nz/themoreyouknow for more information.
James Mok – Group Executive Creative Director Australasia
Regan Grafton – Executive Creative Director
Kelly Lovelock – Senior Art Director
Peter Vegas – Senior Writer
Head of TV – Esther Watkins
TV Producer – Sascha Mortimer
Senior Account Director – Dom Henshall
Senior Account Manager – Sarah Raine
Account Executive – Ida Levick
Planning Director – David Thomason
Planner – Emma Popping
Media Director – Anne Lipsham
Media Planner/Buyer – Dan Currin, Michelle Heighway
PR General Manager – Angela Spain
Production Company – Assembly
Director – Jonny Kofoed
Typographer – Len Cheeseman
Executive Producer – Amanda Chambers
Technical Director – Rhys Dippie
Music – Nick Manders
Sound Design – Jon Cooper
Print Production Director – Eric Thompson
Printers - Original Print – Warren Fenning
NZ Herald - General Manager Operations – Dan Blackbourn
Todd MacLeay – Chief Operating Officer
Carin Hercock – Market Information Director
Karlee Lightbourne – Marketing Services Manager
Stephanie Gray – Business Marketing Manager