Increase Your Ad Revenue
In theory, it's a pretty simple proposition: if you want advertising to work, go where the eyes (or ears) are. In reality, our fragmented, niched media marketplace presents challenges for media buyers looking to find the best return for their marketing dollars. Am I reaching the audience I want? Is the message coming across the way I want it to? How do I know I can tie business (or lack of it) to a particular campaign?
These are the challenges media sellers need to address, but developing a strategy for doing so can be tricky. A strategy is an action plan pursued to achieve a desired result, but publishers' marketing strategies are pulled in two directions: to support products, including new media and untested, ad-supported platforms; and to meet advertisers' needs. The two imperatives do not always mesh.
"They're looking for revenue. It's hard to blame them for that," Peter Gardiner, partner and chief media officer for global ad agency Deutsch Inc., says of publishers. "But I've just seen it for a long time in the digital space, where 'if you buy this, you've got to buy this.' Please, give me a break."
"When its not going to be an integrated buy, give up. … Go away, we want to just buy this."
Gardiner freely admits the growing importance of multiplatform consumption to consumers. The trick for advertisers has to do with figuring out the best, lowest-risk marketing mix, and the role each channel can play. "You have media that are set up in their own silos as far as how you buy them. When you start talking about digital components of magazines and iPads and all this stuff, it gets very complicated because the value components are very different. I think that's the big problem. What do you pay for what value? How are consumers going to react to the advertising?"
"… I think in any new area, you have a lot of unanswered questions," Gardiner continues. "What I buy for a page in a magazine—you kind of understand what you're getting. What you get when you buy a digital version of that is very different."
For this reason, print still can seem the safest bet for some advertisers. Asked about advertisers getting excited about new platforms, Bill Amstutz, director of publishing operations and strategic planning at NewBay Media, says that even with his company's successful multimedia ventures, there [have] not been a lot of advertiser shifts. "We're still finding that print has a lot of traction in our markets," he notes.
In the digital space, advertisers want click-through and ROI, stresses Shawn Smith, president of Momentum Media Marketing Inc., which works with print, TV, radio and online platforms. "I think if you can move consumers in new ways that stimulate trial and demonstrably move the needle, advertisers will be willing to invest. Marketers in recent years earmarked some budget for new and exciting space such as satellite radio, but more recently, ad agencies [are encouraged to] simply go where the ROI and reach can be found. Platforms are sexy, but they come second."
Gardiner does not doubt the appeal and popularity of digital products. For him, the question is how, for advertisers, that translates into concrete brand awareness or sales. Knowing engagement rates is not enough. "Buying an app doesn't mean you're going to interact with anything I pledge there," he notes.
Which may help explain the growing appeal in the digital arena of social media. Audiences interacting, sharing, commenting and taking other action—the observable response to a sales effort is clear and immediate. "We believe everybody should have a social strategy," Gardiner says.
The most successful brands today are able to connect with and engage customers on a personal level, says Grant Powell, marketing blogger and founder of digital media network agency Pomegranate. "Social media makes that possible because it is community-oriented and interactive. Therefore, brands are looking to find areas and platforms [that] will help them connect with their target demographic in that way," he notes. "A publisher might be able to leverage this by creating content with the same goal in mind of connecting with viewers in some sort of personal way, and offering advertisers a means to build on top of the existing connection that the publisher has established—a sort of 'authentic endorsement' by a brand."
Publishers, in other words, can enhance the brand-building that is already a hallmark of social media marketing by marrying social media functionality to powerful content—and pitching this form of engagement. The fact that many advertisers are themselves looking to become content creators as a core component of brand strategy (Ad Age's Matthew Yeomans recently said major brands are waking up to the need for curated "social media editorial" after years of ceding control to crowdsourcing and user-generated content) only underscores this point.
Social strategies must be targeted to the needs of the individual client, Gardiner notes. "PNC Bank will have a radically different strategy than Direct TV, just given the nature of their products and sensitivities. It's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. We believe you have to listen to consumers in the social space and react to that."
Marketing on the Move
Mobile adds another component to the quest to get audiences to identify with brands. Because mobile allows for near-universal connectivity, advertisers must "open their thinking process to the endless possibilities of being able to deliver adaptive, on-demand messages to their demographic based on real-time actions," Powell says—even down to the level of something like pushing coupons to people when in the vicinity of a competitor's store (the technology is there, he says).
For their part, publishers need to ensure content and platforms are mobile-compatible. "To be a step above the crowd, publishers should consider how they can add an additional valuable component to the mobile experience above and beyond good content," he says.
"Mobile is immediate, and it is contextual," agrees Smith. "Content is queen. And context is king. Mobile allows advertising targeted down to the neighborhood if desired."
Custom Made Partnerships
Another way to create powerful messaging for advertisers is through custom content, increasingly important to the sales strategies of both business-to-business and consumer publishers. Hanley Wood's largest media customer spent almost $4 million with the publisher in 2010—but only about 25 percent to 30 percent of that went to magazine advertising or trade show space. "The rest is custom marketing materials and initiatives," says company CEO Frank Anton. "For example, we've developed extensive online training courses for the customer as well as microsites for their different customer groups, and we provide follow up information for leads generated on those sites. It's our ability to deliver a full-range of media services that's made the difference and allowed us to create a relationship that approximates a partnership versus a vendor relationship."
Such "partnerships" are becoming increasingly important as both publishers and advertisers seek to navigate the multiplatform landscape. "[Marketers] are choosing publishers that offer the full gamut: Print, digital—including website and digital editions of their magazines and conference sponsorships—while still continuing to search for new and inventive ways to reach their target markets," says J.T. Hroncich, president of agency operations at Capital Media Solutions, which provides outsourced ad sales services to magazines, as well as being a traditional marketing agency.
"It is up to the publisher to create opportunities, outside the traditional ones, that offer value and uniqueness to the advertiser," he continues. "… They must first understand what the client deems as a successful campaign. Are they looking for branding, looking to increase website traffic, drive attendance to a specific event? All of this must be understood first, in order to correctly recommend a specific form of marketing."
Marketing dollars continue to move toward "anything and everything digital," Hroncich notes, though print and event sponsorships are creeping upward as the economy continues to recover. The good news for publishers is that this is not a case of new platforms simply supplanting the old, and it is up to publishers to help advertisers understand where best to place their finite ad dollars. This involves publishers' going to marketers with information showing they've listened to their audiences, and demonstrating that they themselves will listen to what marketers have to say.
"It's the same thing that's been going on for years and years," Gardiner says. "You see strengths and weaknesses in different media as new media comes along. Magazines got hurt quite a bit when TV came along, and those vehicles that used to be more TV-like, the Lifes and Looks, disappeared. The big question—and a lot of magazines have been really good about [addressing] it—is how to have an editorial strategy that spans platforms, and how to assess the consumer use of those different platforms."
Magazines' general proposition has not changed, Gardiner notes, referencing a trade promotion he's kept on his desk for 25 years outlining the "five basic reasons to buy magazines": Coverage, Circulation, Editorial, Readership, and Do Its Readers Buy My Product?
"Bottom line," Smith says, "is that compelling brands mobilize consistent messaging across multiple platforms—that, in aggregate, delivers engaged consumers. Not dead is the 'big idea' promotion. More platforms allow publishers to mobilize 'big idea' campaigns that are optimized to the nature of each platform, increasing engagement and ROI. Advertisers still buy great ideas that deliver eyeballs." PE