Print Advertising is Dead. Or is it?

Whenever something new emerges in communications, people assume the previous technology will become obsolete. But, look at history. TV did not kill radio. Cable TV did not kill over-the-air broadcast. Is the same true of print advertising?


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 By Mark Semmelmayer
Whenever something new emerges in communications, people assume the previous technology will become obsolete. But, look at history. TV did not kill radio. Radio is doing just fine, even finding new ways to gain audiences. Cable TV did not kill over-the-air broadcast.
The same, I believe, is true of print advertising. While digital options for marketing communications have negatively impacted the number of publications, total ad pages and revenue, print advertising remains a viable component of any media mix.

Did you know Google spent over a million dollars in print advertising in 2012? Why do you suppose they did? To borrow from Mark Twain, rumors of print advertising’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Advertisers are Shifting Dollars from Print to Digital …
The rise of digital media in preference to print comes down to four key factors; cost, flexibility, accountability and demographics.
� Print is expensive. Beyond space costs, creating print ads can also require significant investment. In contrast, online ads are relatively inexpensive or, in the case of social media, often free.
Print isn’t flexible. There are fixed closing dates for materials and, once in print, the message can’t be changed until the next issue. In contrast, digital media is much more flexible.
Print results are tough to track. In comparison to click-throughs, email open rates and a host of other digital metrics, print’s ability to provide ROI data is limited without well-planned campaign execution.
If the target audience is under 30, print is problematic. In this age group, someone put a cell phone in their hands when they were 9, a laptop when they entered middle school. Print is not their media of choice or experience (BTW, email marketing to this demo is dead, too … they text everything.)
… But Print Retains Some Undeniable Advantages
Print advertising does things online adverting/content can’t, especially in B-2-B. It is narrowly targetable, highly personal and credible to the customer, relatively long-lived and a solid vehicle for establishing brand identity.
Print is relatively easy to target. Publishers understand advertisers’ desires to communicate efficiently with those readers likeliest to become customers. Nothing exemplifies this better than business publications. Want engineers? No problem. Nurses or doctors? There’s a cure for that, too. Audience specificity is the business publisher’s stock in trade. Another key; the 40+ target audience doesn’t live online.

Print is, decidedly, a personal choice: Customers pay for subscriptions or request and renew qualified subscriptions because they choose to. They want the focused information publications put on their desk or coffee table. In addition, print is tactile; comfort food for the brain. When you pick up your favorite publication, doesn’t it give you a sense of relaxation?
That’s the reason print can communicate longer, more complex messages. Consumers are more engaged reading print, unlike websites, which are often skimmed in as little as 15 seconds. A study shows that people read digital screen text 20%–30% slower than printed paper, and read less of it (Alshaali & Varshney, 2005).

Customers trust the printed page. Readers trust magazine content (including ads; studies show readers often enjoy ads as much as articles) and tend to develop loyalty to publications that provide the information they want. The best measure of effectiveness for any ad campaign is increasing intent to purchase. Magazines provide that in spades!
A study, conducted in 2012 by Dynamic Logic on behalf of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), measured the total increase in purchase consideration/intent for a variety of products. The results? Television accounted for a 30% increase, online tallied 13% in increase, but, dramatically, magazines represented a 56% increase. In other words, magazines blew the other two media away in driving positive shifts in intention to buy.
Print persists. Ask yourself a question. How many issues of your most informative business publications are lying around your home, office or break rooms? I’m guessing the answer, at worst, is “a few.” That longevity and the pass-along factor mean more people see your advertising more often. �
Print builds your brand. This is a gestalt of all the advantages of print advertising. Because of personal interaction, the credibility of the publication and the desire to gain the kind of information it provides, compelling print advertising puts you in a position of having potential customers recognize your brand as a leader.
Just follow a few simple rules. Make the ad and its message impactful and relevant to the customer. Be consistent in your approach to graphics, fonts, logos. Magazine ad pages have declined, so there is less competition for attention … and probably fewer competitors in evidence. Done right, you can use well-executed print advertising as a springboard to creating brand dominance.

Viva, Print!
The evidence, empirical and intuitive, points to print advertising still being a viable component of an effective ad campaign. The key words are “component” and “campaign.” Marketing communications success lies in integrating multiple communications outlets. Market and audience research will show you who your customers are and how they want to get information that will generate interest in your product. Use the right vehicles; online, print, collateral, event marketing … all the tools in the toolbox, to be there when the time is right.
Two closing thoughts:
Make print more accountable. To enhance your print ROI analysis, give readers a call to action that drives them to your website. “Vanity” URLs can track inquiry to a specific ad. A QRC code can do the same. On your website, devise a message that will get them to ask for more information. Then let your CRM system work its magic.
The message is the medium. Last October, three former BMA (Business Marketing Association) Chairmen, Bob Lauterborn, Frank Compton and I, were asked to judge a creative awards competition in a major U.S. B2B market. The work, for the most part, was superb, especially the online efforts. But the print advertising? Meh. Finding the right resource or agency to create your message is critical to success. They need to pride themselves on their print work and have a portfolio to prove it.


Need more information?
Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
22843 Missy Drive
Marietta, GA 30062
� MARK SEMMELMAYER is a former Chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and recently retired from corporate life after a 32 year stint with Kimberly-Clark Corporation in their Health Care business. He is the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy in Atlanta, GA.