NYCA Talks Tough for ‘Union-Tribune’

LOS ANGELES Armored trucks will roll in to the San Diego County Fair next Monday to send a “protection” message and sell newspaper subscriptions, the finishing touch of an integrated marketing campaign for The San Diego Union-Tribune, according to the agency.

The client spends about $2 million annually on ads, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The newspaper enlisted independent NYCA, Encinitas, Calif., to design a campaign to boost print readership and subtly tout its first Pulitzer Prize victory, for national-affairs reporting on Congressman “Duke” Cunningham’s bribery scandal.

The campaign, which broke in the last two weeks, includes a 30-second television spot in which City Hall is pictured, then reframed as a newspaper photo while a voiceover reads the paper’s Charles Foster Kane-like manifesto: “This is a promise to the people of San Diego. We will continue to expose the misconduct of elected officials. We will be relentless in revealing bureaucratic ineptitude.”

The spot uses skip-frame animated moves on various newspaper clippings of officials nabbed in local takedowns, at one point overexposing images, and sounds that suggest flashing photo bulbs.

The photographic newspaper style of the spot was important, said CEO and creative director Michael Mark, because “when we talk about news on television, it comes off as TV news. Using mostly stills and some moving images, the paper comes to life. The negative images dramatize the idea of looking deeper, like an X-ray does.”

Outdoor displays boasting of the Tribune‘s watchdog character are designed to look like neighborhood-watch notices (“We will immediately report all political crimes and corruption”) with a “no” icon of a man in a suit with dollar bills in his breast pocket.

Outdoor (on kiosks) and print show a white picket fence against an idyllic beach background and chain-link fence squalor below, along with the face of a disgraced mayoral candidate and (per accompanying copy) a woman left destitute by a deadbeat husband. The tagline: “Even paradise needs a watchdog.”

Mark said the campaign “repositioned the brand from something you do, read a newspaper, to what they do for you. It’s much more than a read; it’s a protection service. We’ve changed it from passive to active. He added that the community-watch posters further the paper’s position as “the local guys. We happen to be the local paper, but just won the prize for national reporting.”