For years magazine publishers focused most of their attention on selling ads in their magazines and devoted less attention to proving the ads were effective. At many magazines, efforts at measuring effectiveness were often limited to tracking consumer response to 800 numbers that appeared in print ads. However, the carefree days are over as many new advertising media have emerged, such as niche-oriented cable TV networks, narrowly targeted radio stations, and the Internet. Moreover, there are more than twice as many magazines competing for media dollars as there were a decade ago.With so many media options available,marketers now want tangible proof that magazine advertising is effective and can build brand awareness, help position a brand,or actually deliver sales.
Magazines have typically promised advertisers exposure or access to a well-defined audience such as fashion-conscious young women, sports-obsessed men, or automotive buffs. However, advertisers want evidence of more than exposure. They want proof that seeing an ad for Calvin Klein jeans in Cosmo makes readers more likely to spend $80 to buy them or that placing an ad for a Volkswagen Jetta in Rolling Stone helps the brand stick in consumers’ minds long enough to influence their next auto purchase. The executive vice president of Conde Naste Publications, Inc.,which publishes popular titles such as Vogue, GQ, Glamour, and Vanity Fair, says: “Twenty years ago, our only obligation to advertisers was to gather people who would see the ad. Now we must prove the ad actually does something. Sometimes, that’s possible; sometimes it’s not.”
Magazines increasingly have to compete against media that can provide evidence that their ads do indeed do something. For example, the Internet can show accountability instantly because consumers’ movements and purchases can be tracked through their mouse clicks. And with new digital technology, television sets will soon become transactional tools, allowing consumers to order information and goods right from their sofas with a remote control. Magazines can ill afford to wait any longer to prove that they work.
The magazine industry is taking steps to address the accountability issue. The industry’s lead trade group, Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), recently spent half a million dollars investigating ways to prove magazine effectiveness. One of the group’s studies found that boosting ad spending in magazines increased short-term sales of products and also generated more sales over time. Sales increased among magazine-exposed households for 8 of the 10 brands measured. Individual magazines are also trying to prove how advertising in their pages can help build a brand or move the sales needle. Another phase of the study found a significant relationship between advertising awareness and purchase intention. Moreover, awareness attributed to a combination of both television and magazines was most strongly related to positive changes in purchase intention. This “media multiplier” effect occurs because the heavy magazine reader is traditionally a light TV viewer and magazines deliver a new audience when added to a heavy TV schedule and can also help build frequency. Consumers’ loyalty to magazines and their willingness to spend uninterrupted, focused time with them has always been a powerful selling point for the medium. Now, however, magazines must prove that their connection with readers will generate sales for the companies that advertise in them. As Chris Miller, the MPA’s head of marketing, notes: “One of the most important questions for this industry is the bottomline question—does it drive sales?”