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Print Is Still a Strong and Viable Ad Medium

Print Is Still a Strong and Viable Ad Medium 37998
When we hear the words “interactive advertising” we naturally think of the web, whether it’s deployed on mobile phones, tablets or PCs.

That’s why many people in the advertising and marketing industries have to be reminded that print, as in hard-copy newspapers and magazines, was the first interactive medium, and that’s why it’s still a powerful and effective part of any media mix.

Print is also the most sensory medium. Only print can activate each of the five senses and usually more than one of them at a time: Think scented perfume ads, varied paper textures, and embedded sound devices.

Some ads have a real and practical use in and of themselves. For example, back in 1988, several years before the words “internet” and “web” entered the global lexicon,  Spin magazine caused an uproar when, as part of a public-service effort to combat AIDS, each copy of the November issue contained a free condom (donated by Trojan).

Talk about useful, sensory, interactive, and memorable advertising. We don’t need to count the ways.

And as recently as September 2010, a print campaign in Entertainment Weekly touted the remade series Hawaii Five-0 by playing the show’s iconic theme song when the two-page spread was opened.

It’s tempting to wonder if print’s visceral appeal is responsible for the boost in print magazine pages this year. Don’t rub your eyes. You read it right. Magazine ad pages have grown four consecutive quarters, beginning in Q2 2010 through Q1 2011, when they were up almost three percent compared to Q1 2010, according to the latest data from the MPA—The Association of Magazine Media.

I’m pretty sure there’s an additional reason—the web. Believe it or not, print is an integral component of any web-based campaign, and the web is also helping print advertising to evolve.

Print is a strong driver of online behavior by whetting the reader’s appetite for a complementary web experience. Have you noticed that over the past several years, almost all print ads carry some URL or digital code? A lot of the new web-based mobile technologies, such as QR codes, have forced media planners (and consumers) to give print a closer, more appraising look.

Print ads become even more engaging if they are also tied to a text-messaging campaign, because it is the most effective means of accessing short-code messages on a mobile phone. The process of consumer engagement doesn’t start on the mobile device; it has to start from a print ad. So integration between print and digital is key. Additionally, there’s no fee for a QR code because it’s part of the creative execution of the print ad. What needs to be built out is the mobile site.

Short code in print ads has also helped big-brand marketers (think McDonald’s and BMW) to build customer databases.  Consider that the biggest boost in magazine print pages this year came from the automotive market, which bought 1,692 pages in 2010, but bumped it up to 2,134 this year – a jump of 26 percent, according to the MPA.

Additionally, the Publishers Information Bureau reports that magazine ad revenue and pages increased in seven of 12 major advertising categories during the first quarter of 2011: Toiletries and cosmetics; OTC drug remedies; apparel and accessories; media and advertising; automotive, financial, insurance, real estate and technology.

The next time you find yourself asking if media planners and buyers should continue to include print in their media-mix modeling, remember my retort: Absolutely.

Magazines remain a welcomed and effective advertising medium. People still engage with print even in a young demographic. Consumers enjoy the tactile, personal relationships they have with their favorite magazines. And not everyone has the disposable income or desire for an e-reader, which you can’t use to cover your head in the rain.


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