A turning point for newsbrands, thanks to Sir Martin

Sir Martin Sorrell: WPP's chief executive
Sir Martin Sorrell: WPP's chief executive

A week in the South of France brought reason for cheer, says Rufus Olins, chief executive of Newsworks.

Congratulations are in order – US agency La Comunidad deserves all the plaudits it has already earned (and more) for scooping the Press Grand Prix at Cannes for "Never Stop Riding", its campaign for the public bike hire scheme in Buenos Aires.

I declare my interest as a cyclist, but, even so, it was a worthy winner – on brief, clever, witty and eye-catching. The judges revealed that their decision was unanimous, praising the work for its "fresh creative approach, challenging and far away from the comfort zone".

2015 may not have been a vintage year in the press category at Cannes, but Pablo Del Campo, Saatchi & Saatchi’s worldwide creative chief, who chaired the press jury, felt that there was some excellent work on show.

More than enough to justify his assessment that print newspapers are "totally engaging and very effective".

None of you will be astonished that we think so too.

And we’re pleased that WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell used his presence in Cannes to pursue this theme.

Speaking during one debate, he reiterated his view, first expressed back in March, that the market may have been guilty recently of undervaluing (or overlooking) the power of news media, not least in their print manifestations.

He said: "There’s some really strong evidence that engagement with traditional print is greater than engagement with so-called new media."

Sir Martin now appears to be challenging the assumptions of those who, like the US data analyst, Mary Meeker, have been advocating that advertisers should shift more money online because people are spending more time in digital environments, particularly mobile.

He believes it’s time the industry focused on engagement and effectiveness metrics rather than on crude measures of "time spent" online – and that research will begin to prove the power of engagement offered by news media.

There’s also a growing appreciation that newspaper measures of viewability are robust and well-established.

To qualify as a reader, a newspaper must have been read or looked at for at least two minutes. In fact, newspapers are read for much longer than this. TouchPoints data shows that people spend an average of one hour and nine minutes a day with newspapers.

By their very nature, newspapers deliver fully attentive, engaged readers, so it's encouraging that the likes of Sir Martin and Pablo Del Campo are helping to put engagement and effectiveness at the top of the agenda.

As Sir Martin put it at Cannes: "I think with traditional media, particularly newspapers, [the market] will realise they are more powerful than people give them credit for."

Could it mean, in media spend terms, we might be about to see a market correction, or, as Sir Martin puts it, the "pendulum swinging back"?

Rufus Olins is chief executive of Newsworks

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