Guest Column: Magazines—The Medium of Action in a Slow-Moving Economy
If you were a marketer today and your bottom line depended on moving people to action, which media would you select for your advertising plan? The good news for magazines is research shows that magazines are the “medium of action.” Out With the “Old Thinking”
Today’s challenging times have exacerbated the need for marketers to show that they can generate results quickly. If they fail, they—and their brands—will likely not survive. It’s common knowledge that the spate of recent marketing budget cuts has put enormous pressure on clients and their agencies to determine which media should stay in a plan and which should get cut. What’s not so obvious is the impact of marketers who make allocation (or reallocation) decisions using the principles of “old thinking,” reach-based planning compared to that of state-of-the-art thinkers who employ the principles of “effectiveness planning.”
Why should magazine publishers care? Because when effectiveness-planning thinking prevails, so do magazines.
Look at the differences: Reach-based marketers concentrate on reaching the maximum number of people as possible with their ads, based on a medium’s audience, at the lowest cost. Their conversations about efficiency focus on cost per thousand without regard to whether those audiences are affected by the advertising.
Effectiveness-based planning looks at how advertising in the medium drives outcomes, based on the marketers’ objectives and the costs to achieve them. Here, the notion of efficiency is based on cost per impact—i.e., the cost to get one person to act in response to the advertising.
Consider this: Effectiveness-based marketers increasingly look beyond awareness as a marketing goal. They seek to encourage people to buy their products or services by building purchase intent and doing it at the lowest cost.
Magazines Drive Outcomes
When leading accountability researcher Marketing Evolution looked at the cost for marketers to drive brand awareness, it found that magazines play well in the sandbox. TV drives awareness most efficiently, and magazines contribute as well. On average, it cost 98 cents for TV and $1.08 for magazines for every person whose “awareness of a brand increased”—roughly a 10-percent difference. (Note: Online contributes to awareness, too, but at a more distant $1.97.)
If awareness is the marketing objective, marketers would be well-served to have TV as the lynchpin of their plans and to have magazines play an important supporting role.
But when purchase intent becomes the marketing objective, the roles reverse. Magazines play a starring role, with TV in the background. On average, it costs just $1.23 per person whose purchase intent shifted due to magazine ads, compared to $1.77 for TV (44 percent more) and $2.61 for online (112 percent more). In fact, the cost to get one person to want to buy your brand via magazine advertising is not that much more than it is to get that person to be aware of your brand.
The story doesn’t stop there. Marketers who care about effectiveness have gravitated toward search as a way to bolster their marketing efforts. Guess what medium leads in generating searches for merchandise online, even without considering how many more ad dollars are allocated to TV? Respected research provider BIGresearch found that magazines beat broadcast and cable TV and even online media in this area. In fact, magazines were the only medium to rank in the top three of 18 media studies across all age groups.
And for those marketers who want buzz? Mediamark Research & Intelligence data show another strong connection between magazines and digital media. Marketers who want to build word-of-mouth should know that Facebook and My-Space users are heavy users of magazines, as well as the Internet. Other media rank far behind. Magazines and the Web also stand out as having the most trustworthy opinions—another important factor in buzz marketing.
What does this mean for magazine publishers? Nothing gets attention like the need to survive. That means that today’s economy provides an unprecedented opportunity. Sharing the lessons learned about how magazine ads can improve clients’ advertising results in the short term can garner marketers’ attention like never before. Add to that the fact that magazines can deliver this impact at a superior return on investment, and you have an extraordinarily compelling story.
Every magazine marketer and seller should become conversant in these facts and use at least one in every sales call. If you don’t think “media-mix allocation” matters, remember this: Media-allocation decisions determine how much money is available for every magazine. A smaller allocation lessens the chance that your magazine will be among those selected, but by positioning magazines as the “medium of action,” publishers can increase the odds of growing business.
Ellen Oppenheim is executive vice president/chief marketing officer for Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), the industry association for consumer magazines. She joined MPA in 2001 and is responsible for the association’s advertising and marketing efforts, as well as for advising the consumer magazine industry on advertising effectiveness and accountability. She was previously senior vice president, media director for Foote, Cone & Belding, New York.