The Association of Magazine Media in the US is putting its money where its mouth is; it is offering advertisers a Print Magazine Sales Guarantee, no ordinary promise to simply deliver an audience.
I have always admitted to being an un-rehabilitated magazine junkie, so it was not surprising that a particular chart caught my attention when I was reading The Media Online last Thursday. The chart was blandly entitled ‘Return on ad spend across media‘, but it was a splendid green bar which delighted me. It showed the ROAS of magazines at $3.94, towering magnificently above the return of digital display and linear TV ads, at $2.63 and $2.55 respectively.
The reason that the magazine ROAS looked so effective, was that this figure took into the account the amount of investment put into each medium’s campaign. Digital video delivered low ROAS at $1.53, which could be explained by the medium being currently in vogue and in demand, with resultant high pricing. Magazines have a degree of pricing flexibility and ironically, in this case, the advantage of not being quite as sexy – so pricing favours the advertiser.
Typically, an advertiser in the US, where Nielsen Catalina Solutions carried out the study, would spend about a fifth of its investment in linear TV, on magazines. Ignore, the media investment and look only at sales uplift per household reach, and the heft of TV’s reach edges linear TV ahead of magazines. Look through the lens differently, focusing only on uplift per thousand impressions, and mobile wins the day.
The article went on to demonstrate that different product categories generated different levels of return. It explained this scientifically in terms of price points and rates of purchase, but I felt sure the real explanation was the emotional tugs that babies and pets exert on their carers’ heartstrings. Perhaps I had drifted into magazine mode; certainly I was thinking of pictures of irresistible cats for whom I would buy any toys they desired. Bringing myself back to rational consideration of that single ROAS chart, I wondered what the magazine industry would do with it.
Over the weekend, while browsing on my Mac, I discovered what the the Association of Magazine Media is doing with such information in the US. It is putting its money where its mouth is; it is offering advertisers a Print Magazine Sales Guarantee. This is no ordinary promise to simply deliver an audience; in what must be an industry first in terms accountability, this is a promise that advertising in print magazines will increase an advertiser’s brand sales, providing positive ROI. This Sales Guarantee applies to MPA’s qualifying membership, which represents 72% of the reader universe.
The Sales Guarantee is available to all advertisers who meet certain basic conditions. To be able to prove the sales uplift, it is necessary that the advertised brands must be sold in a channel or advertising category which has sales data tracked by a syndicated research firm e.g. Nielsen Homescan, Kantar/IRI panels, Nielsen Catalina Solutions or IMS Health on a sufficiently granular level to facilitate the calculation of the sales impact of the campaign.
Increase in ad revenue
The second requirement is that the advertiser buys a minimum of 150 GRPs against adults 18+ across a magazine media company’s titles within a 12-month period. The total buy must represent an increase ad revenue or pages or a share increase by title or magazine media company.
The deal is that if the incremental sales attributable to a campaign is less than the campaign investment itself, then the advertiser will be rebated the difference in cash or future ad pages or dollars by the publisher. Naturally, the publisher foots the bill for the research.
Once there is an adequate volume of research to provide benchmarks for cross-platform industry-wide guarantees, the publishers hope to develop an integrated guarantee programme.
This is not the product of desperation. The MPA Magazine Media 360° Brand Audience Reports have demonstrated growth in publishers’ audiences across all print and digital platforms.
Benefits of paper-based reading
In fact, some members of the MPA e.g. Time Inc., Hearst Magazines, Condé Nast and Meredith Corporation have all conducted similar programs with uniformly positive results.
Moreover, a white paper ‘What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About Why Print Magazine Advertising Works? released in October 2015, outlined possible explanations for the advertising impact of magazines. It suggested that reading on paper is slower and deeper, than reading on screen which is more in scan mode. It reminded us that paper-based reading benefits from more focused attention, less distraction, less anxiety related to interruption than the digital equivalent.
Moreover, memory and comprehension from paper-based reading is enriched by the multi-sensory experience of holding and manipulating paper. It even seems that print advertising activates neural activity associated with desirability and reward.
With such evidence of magazine’s power, it makes sense for magazine publishers to take decisive action to recapture advertising investment. My first question is how could advertisers ignore such an offer. My second is how long would it be, before a local medium, or media owner, will have similar evidence and such conviction.
Britta Reid is an independent media consultant.