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updated: 1/10/2013 9:41 AM

Stunt shows what papers do -- engage

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All right, pay attention.

Ah, well, actually, I may not have to ask that of you. If a stunt pulled by a Belgian advertising agency is any indication, you're already pretty well engaged with your local newspaper.

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The stunt was created and filmed by Newspapers Work, a European marketing company for newspapers in Belgium. Not exactly local, I know, but if you appreciate the pleasures of reading and particularly of reading newspapers, you'll enjoy giving it a look.

"Promise is good. Prove is better," Newspapers Work says on its website, explaining why it set out not just to say that newspapers are engaging, but to demonstrate it.

Its methodology owes a lot to Allen Funt and Candid Camera, but its conclusions, which you can see in a video posted at YouTube, are both a hoot and a lesson.

Under the guise of an advertising sales pitch, the agency offered three major advertisers private limousine drivers "so they had time to read the newspaper."

Read they did. "And they kept on reading," the marketing agency says. "Despite the fact that we provided more than enough to distract them."

At various points along the advertisers' routes, the agency inserted various eye-catching -- or so you would think -- interruptions. A man covered in flames running down the street. Golfers putting at a makeshift green on a roadway median. A person in a bear suit driving alongside in a convertible and more. At one point, the driver stopped at a gasoline station as if to fill up, but instead took off his pants and then walked back past the advertiser to resume his place behind the wheel.

In each of three cases, the advertisers were so engrossed in the back seat reading their newspapers that they did not once look up.

You can see the ad for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=e512_OxFWyM

. And, yes, it's advertising, so you shouldn't approach it like an authoritative investigation. But its message is an important one. "(Want) to catch people's attention? That's what newspapers do," the video states. It is clearly aiming to show advertisers why they should want to market themselves through newspapers, but their conclusion is also appealing for newspaper readers as well.

In short, newspapers are interesting.

That in fact is my biggest complaint about them; I find them hard to put down. Whether one is an active citizen, a curious reader or just an undisciplined browser (and I, alas, am at various times all three), the depth and diversity of topics in a newspaper can grab hold of your attention and keep you so engaged that you don't notice, well, the spaceman in the crosswalk ahead of you or the half-naked man who's driving your car.

A couple of years ago, our top newsroom editors revisited some of the themes that drive us. We revised our chief objective, thusly: "To spark the suburban conversation," And we said that to do that we would aim "to engage our neighbors with trusted, creative and always tenacious suburban coverage that reflects their lives and protects their interests,"

I'm sorry that we can't afford to demonstrate that by sending someone to your house to drive you around all day, but whether you have a spouse or a teenager for that purpose or just peruse your paper at the kitchen table, the den or the doctor's office, we make you this commitment -- to capture and keep your attention. It's what newspapers do.

Jim Slusher, jslusher@dailyherald.com, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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