Principles and Practices of Classified Advertising
Principles and Practices of Classified Advertising. – Danville : Association of Newspaper Classified Advertising Managers, 1985. – 86 р.
What Makes Classified Work
By Dick MacDonald
MacDonald Classified Service Lafayette, Indiana
Newspaper Classified advertising deserves to be more universally understood. While the sizable revenue it contributes to the total newspaper is generally appreciated, an understanding of the medium has not followed hand in hand.
The following is an attempt to enrich your understanding of Classified. It is, plain and simple, an effort at explaining what makes Classified work. The hope is that others will then come to benefit from your understanding.
The ancient Greeks had a way of viewing and talking about material objects which is still useful to us today in the kind of understanding and perspective it promotes. Viewing a chair, they would consider it and then describe it in terms of both its substance and what they called its "accidents". The substance of the chair was seen as its "chairness" – its unmistakable identity as a piece of furniture in which people sat. The accidents were those attributes which were seen as not essential to its chairness, but were instead options chosen by the designer or craftsman. Whether the chair was metal or wood, upholstered or unupholstered, large or small, soft or hard were described as non-essential accidents.
The example proves helpful in our discussion of what makes Classified work. Classified's substance – its Classifiedness – is a medium in which information has been organized to facilitate its easy exchange between readers and advertisers. The front or back location of Classified in the newspaper, its columns-per-page format, whether or not illustration and art elements are used in its ads, how its pricing schedule is structured and in what manner it is sold are all accidents-all options of the designer. They are not the substance of Classified. They are variables which are manipulated to make the medium more useful and therefore more attractive to its readers and advertisers.
Satisfying Classified readers and advertisers is the whole point of the business we're in; it's not making linage quotas or topping last year's revenue figures. The business of Classified is like every other business: to create and satisfy customers, both readers and advertisers.
Satisfying Classified readers and advertisers means providing something which has value to them. For the reader, value is in being able to find needed information easily. For the advertiser, value is having an affordable means of communicating with a large number of the right people.
It needs to be said that readers also have a right to be shielded from ads which are in poor taste, dishonest and fraudulent. Readers expect newspapers to protect them from crooks. Our ads must be scrupulously monitored to assure this.
Affirming value to the reader
Understanding where the value to the reader exists in Classified advertising is vital. It's the necessary starting point. Another question immediately arises: "How can the value of Classified be affirmed to readers more successfully?"
Suppose people invest in a newspaper for the purpose, among other things, of reading Classified ads to look for a job. They're acting on an implied promise your Classified department has made to them. They stand a good chance of finding information about jobs which might be of interest to them in Classified. Your information medium cannot offer them a job-only the possibility of finding information about a job.
The best you can offer is a promise – a promise to provide convenient and useful information. There is nothing unusual or unique about this. In fact, this applies to all offerings in the marketplace. Just as a new automobile offers the promise of personal transportation, your ink-on-paper product offers the promise of useful information.
The above comparison offers additional insight. When the promise of personal transportation is sought in an automobile, the evidence that the promise can be fulfilled is dramatic! The new car sits there on the showroom floor in all its gleaming steel-and-plastic splendor. But where is the evidence – the tangible clues – that suggest to a reader that reading Classified will provide useful information?
Classified's evidence – its shiny car on the showroom floor – is the Classified section a reader holds in his or her hands. The Classified advertising portion of the newspaper is Classified's tangible evidence of its ability to make good on its promise to provide useful information…"
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