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Humerous Ads Find Devoted Readership

White Plains, N.Y., trades Laughs for testimonials

When Barbara Moroch, then marketing manager of The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., was planning a Classified contest, all she had to do was read them. Within the pages of The Journal News Classifieds, Moroch spotted The Classified Guys’ syndicated column and began brainstorming.
The idea
Moroch ran a four-week contest called “Laughs to Loot”. Working with The Classified Guys Moroch used material from the "Laughs For Sale" section from their feature and placed it within the real private party ads in The Journal News Classifieds. She labeled the end of each funny ad with the code "L2L". Readers sought out the Laughs For Sale in their daily or online editions. Each week, readers that sent in all seven ads were entered in that week’s drawing for $1,000. As the Laughs for Sale portion of the contest ran, readers had the option to submit an essay on what they loved about The Journal News Classifieds. The winner of the essay portion received $5,000, a photo with The Classified Guys and a reprint of the winning essay in The Classified Guys column. Although The Classified Guys column is syndicated in more than 100 newspapers, a special version of the column featuring the essay was printed soley in The Journal News. Overall $9,000 was given away in prizes.

The implementation
Moroch received permission from The Classified Guys to use their format and branding for the contest forms and to run the winning essay in place of the column while using their template. She also requested their assistance in two key areas of the contest. “We supplied the Laughs For Sale, which they used to run a phony ad and allowed people to be part of a drawing for cash prizes. Also, we made ourselves available for a photo shoot with the winner,” explained Todd “Carry” Holze, one of The Classified Guys.
The results
Throughout the four weeks the ad search ran, The Journal News received 1,300 entries. Of those 1,300 entries, 90% of them used the print section to find the Laughs For Sale. “We thought the minute our readers found out that those bogus ads were online they’d go straight to our Web site, but that wasn’t the case at all. We opened the entries and they were all newspaper clippings. We were shocked,” Moroch recalled. In addition to the weekly entries, Moroch received 200 entries for the essay contest. Of those 200, about 60 required closer examination. Out of the final 10, one was selected for the $5,000 grand prize and a photo session with The Classified Guys.

Making the most of it
While only one person could win the essay contest, Moroch was quick to call the other finalists and ask permission to use their essays for future testimonials. “I was thinking as I crafted this contest that whatever essays were good but didn’t win would provide fabulous material for ongoing testimonial campaigns. It was an efficient plan where we used as much as we could,” Moroch noted. When the contest ended, the newspaper had received 1,500 entries for its Laughs to Loot contests, proving Moroch had successfully reached her goal of driving readership into the classifieds.

For future reference
Moroch highly recommends working with syndicated columnists to gain reader attention and promote the columnists. The mutually beneficial arrangement for “Laughs to Loot” helped localize The Classified Guys while increasing The Journal News Classifieds’ readership. The Classified Guys were excited to help as a way to thank their customers. Also, the testimonials can have an impact on the newspaper staff. “People really place value onto the classifieds section. It makes you see that there are people who are attached to the product, and as a result, you want to do a better job for them. It was very interesting to see how the classifieds impact their lives, and it makes you look at the classified section with new eyes. “It was a good contest and I loved the idea of leveraging The Classified Guys because we do run them as a feature. It all worked together very well,” Moroch said.

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