Skip to Main Content

Sorry seems to be the hardest word…

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 6th May 2009

If you are based in London, you might have seen a billboard advertising campaign run by the Evening Standard (see above). The series of posters are obviously identifiable by just one word: ‘Sorry’.

Ahead of its relaunch on 11th May (complete with a new editor, design…), the paper is running the campaign (created by agency McCann Erickson) to apologise to Londoners for its behaviour in the past. This follows research carried out earlier this year by the paper’s new editor – Geordie Greig – which found that Londoners view the daily title as ‘negative’.

The paper has suffered recently following the onslaught of two nightly freesheets – the London Paper and the Standard’s sister-title London Lite. And, on top of this, it reported a fall in circulation in March this year. This, following the purchase of 75.1% of the paper by Lebedev, the Russian billionaire and former KGB agent in February from former owner Daily Mail & General Trust.

So is this a wise move? I see two sides to this.

On one hand, you have to admire the semblance of transparency. The paper is putting its hands up in a very public way and taking responsibility for past mistakes, promising a brighter future. With the way things are going, its probably the last chance for the loss-making title to give its print circulation a much needed boost.

However, you have to wonder whether this campaign will simply leave Londoners dazed and confused. Sure, once they discover the subplot, they will still understand the key message – things are changing – but wont the lasting subconscious image of the brand merely be ‘apologetic’.

The chairman of rival ad agency Fallon, Laurence Green, is quoted in the Guardian today saying:

“I think the truth is the Evening Standard is between a rock and a hard place of threats to its business [model] so the campaign is either desperation or reckless ambition… It is a massive role of the dice, but admirable. The question will be on follow-through. They have raised expectations on what comes next, which means pressure on providing a great product.”

My personal view follows on from this final comment. I’ve never really viewed the Evening Standard as negative, despite its obvious political allegiance. Where I do think it can possibly differentiate itself in what is now a crowded market, is by empahsising its aim to be the quality London paper as opposed to the younger, more ‘trashy’ upstarts. Perhaps the refresh will embody those values.

Of course, all this speculation is perhaps immaterial as increasingly London commuters will be reaching for their iPhone. Blackberry or Kindle, rather than a 50p for the newstand.

Danny Whatmough