Dominic Mills
Jul 16, 2011

Opinion: Rupert Murdoch’s big reincarnation dilemma

Any decision to replace the NoTW with the Sun on Sunday comes with huge problems

Opinion: Rupert Murdoch’s big reincarnation dilemma

The corpse of the 168-year-old News of the World may scarcely be cold, but the British media ecosystem is already abuzz with rumour and speculation about its reincarnation as a Sunday version of Rupert Murdoch’s hugely successful weekday tabloid, the Sun.

It isn’t just the 2.8m buyers of the Screws (as it was fondly known) who’ll miss its downmarket diet of sex, scandal outrage and sport; advertisers will too,attracted as much by the size of its audience as by its surprisingly upmarket make up, with at least 30% at the top end of the socio-economic classificationsystem.

The problem for Rupert Murdoch is two-fold: one, it is by no means a given that Screws readers (or at least the more affluent ones, anyway) will convert to the Sun. For all the similarities in content, the Sun is perceived to be the read of choice for the so-called White Van Man, a breed of working man upmarket readers would prefer not to be associated with.

Murdoch’s second problem is one of timing. How long does he decently have to wait before launching the Sun on Sunday? Too soon and the decision to shut the Screws will be seen as a cynical gesture designed only to save his bid for full control of satellite broadcaster Sky from being savaged by the regulators (a prospect which now looks increasingly likely). Leave it too long though, and his rivals will snaffle both readers and advertisers.

TheTwitter effect (again)

It is widely believed that Rupert Murdoch’s decision to pull the plug on the NoTW was in part caused by the decision of a slew of advertisers to withdraw their money from the paper. What started as a trickle on Wednesday morning (Ford being the first to go public), quickly turned into a flood within 24 hours, and was followed later that day with news of the paper’s closure.

So was this a case of advertisers spontaneously seeking the moral high ground? Er,no. its origins lay in a one-woman campaign on a popular mothers’ site calling for an advertiser boycott that was rapidly given a turbocharge by Twitter.

For those advertisers that don’t take social media seriously, it’s yet another lesson in the awesome power of social networks to energise the general public.

Even good guys need to play by the rules

In case you’ve been on Planet Nowhere for the last few months, one of the most popular ads of the year has been Deutsch’s utterly charming ‘Darth Vader’ TVC for Volkswagen US.

A little boy, dressed up as Darth Vader, runs around his home trying to work Darth’s supernatural powers on all kinds of inaminate objects (and the dog), among them the Passat.

You can imagine how Greenpeace must have rubbed their hands when they saw this. Darth plus evil car manufacturer equals spoof film attacking VW’s environmental credentials. Easy!

Sadly for Greenpeace (and unlike VW), they neglected to get copyright permission from the owner of the Star Wars franchise, Lucasfilm, and have had to take the film off YouTube.

The spoof was actually a pretty feeble effort, and Greenpeace might actually be secretly relieved. But even those who like Greenpeace follow a higher calling have to abide by the same rules as lesser mortals when it comes to making ads.

Dominic Mills is editorial director of Haymarket Business Media, publishers of Campaign India, and a former editor of Campaign UK

Campaign India