The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has just unveiled a new national advertising campaign whose slogan is “Smart Is the New Sexy.”
Huh? Whose idea was this? And what was the “Old Sexy” anyway? Dumb?
If they’re hoping to attract more newspaper readers and advertisers with this marketing come-on, it’s pretty lame.
The NAA developed a cartoonish “self-promotional” advertisement that about 2,000 daily and weekly newspapers nationwide will use in print, online websites and in social networks, or so NAA is hoping.
It features a skinny (geeky?) young woman with green hair and glasses sitting at a table with a cup of coffee. Does she look smart or sexy to you? If so, you need to get out more.
What might be a newspaper is sitting on the table – although it could be a placemat. On it is a dark blob that may be a headline, a photo – or spilled coffee. A vase of orange flowers provides….what?
Out of her head spring three thought bubbles – one with a tablet, one with a laptop and one with a smart phone. However, it’s not clear that any of them are open to newspaper websites. How smart is that?
“We want to remind people that newspapers are still the greatest source of news in the country, and to equate the reading of newspapers with staying informed and being smart,” Mark Contreras, former NAA board chair, told Editor & Publisher magazine.
The NAA’s strategy is to show that newspapers, far from being dead or dying, are still a major source of news, information and advertising even though their delivery systems are increasingly digital.
“The real story is that the medium is still relevant and robust, particularly print,” Contreras told E&P. “It’s gotten an unfairly bad rap over the past five to six years.”
That may all be true, but these ads are not likely to help. Besides, the slogan is borrowed from a “Big Bang Theory” TV episode in 2009, so it’s not exactly fresh.
Here’s an alternative ad-campaign proposal, offered to NAA free of charge as a public service.
If newspapers want to be “smart” and “sexy,” well, what are some elements of both that we can all agree on? Think of your own personal relationships. How about if newspapers adopt these three sure-fire attractants:
Transparency – Be totally open about who you are. Reveal your values, your goals, your motives and your biases. Don’t hide or dissemble about where you’re coming from. Don’t be phony or disingenuous. You’ll be totally alluring.
Accountability – Admit it when you’re wrong. Apologize. Ask for forgiveness. Don’t be defensive, arrogant or vindictive. Show a little humility and vulnerability. Promise to try harder next time. You’ll be completely endearing.
Openness – Seek others’ opinions and genuinely value them. Ask for advice from those whose love, respect and loyalty you’re trying to earn. Take their suggestions to heart. You’ll be absolutely irresistible.
If newspapers practiced all those principles, they’d be much smarter and way sexier too. And it just so happens they can. It’s easy:
They should all embrace the “TAO of Journalism,” which means “the path” or “the way.” They should take the TAO of Journalism Pledge and display the TAO seal in print or on their websites.
The seal features the ancient yin-yang symbol, which represents the primal male-female bond, among other things. We also have some temporary stick-on “TAOttoos” that people can put anywhere on their bodies. They last for a week or so before they rub off…depending on where you put them.
This is an approach that could really turn readers on: Let’s just TAO it!
This column was originally published on the Washington News Council blog on July 25, 2011.
Editor’s Note: ONO learned from an NAA spokeswoman that in the time since this column was published, the image in question was part of a test ad that has since been refined.