MEDIA: Times hit by advertiser rebellion over charges

The Times' launch of a compact edition has turned into a PR disaster after the paper imposed additional production charges on advertisers to place their ads in the tabloid.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) has urged its members to refuse to pay the charges and boycott the edition.

Some advertisers, believed to include Homebase, had already decided to boycott the paper before ISBA issued its advice to members. Other ads, including those for Currys, didn't appear in the tabloid because the copy couldn't be legibly shrunk to fit the smaller space.

ISBA's decision came after advertisers and agencies expressed outrage at being forced to pay the production charges, which can amount to £500 an ad. The charges cover the re-sizing of broadsheet ads for the smaller edition. Firms running colour ads are required to pay an additional quality control charge of £150 an ad.

In contrast to The Times' stance, The Independent has been absorbing the extra costs for its own tabloid edition. With The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian also expected to launch tabloid editions, ISBA is concerned that the passing on of these costs does not become standard practice, because it would cost members millions of pounds collectively in the long term.

Times Newspapers general manager Paul Hayes dismissed advertisers' concerns, and said: "We are not seeking to levy any additional charge for an increase in readership and circulation and therefore feel that the few hundred pounds for an extra piece of ad copy is reasonable."

But MindShare managing partner Paul Thomas said The Times had yet to demonstrate that its tabloid was creating any added value for advertisers and that it should absorb the costs until it can, adding: "Why should advertisers be expected to fund what is a marketing exercise for The Times, aimed at remedying its falling circulation?"

Unlike The Times, The Independent invited press buyers to meet its editor to discuss plans for the tabloid.

Analysis, page 14; Leader, page 17.

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