‘Old School’ Marketing: Is Print Dead? Deciding The Fate Of Print Advertising In The Current Recession
by Amanda Bernard
Print publishers have major challenges that lie ahead. These include how to best adapt to digital distribution while finding the best ways to monetize and combating the increasing costs of paper and fuel; publicizing “green printing” methods to counterbalance greater consumer awareness of environmental impact, and proving to print advertisers that they still play an important role in consumer marketing efforts.
Over the past few years, with the increased popularity of online advertising, many print publishers have seen a drastic decrease in print advertising revenues – typically the bread and butter for newspapers and magazines. When I was working as a media planner and buyer for a full-service advertising agency, most clients’ advertising budgets were being reallocated each year, with more and more advertising dollars going towards Pay-Per-Click advertising and display advertising on various websites and less money being budgeted for newspaper and magazine advertising. For several clients, decisions were made to cut back the print advertising budgets for The Washington Post and those dollars were used to buy image display ads on washingtonpost.com instead.
The past few decades have seen a shift from marketing to consumers using means of mass communication to targeting consumers in niche markets. As savvy advertisers have refined their methods for measuring ROI, the idea of spending marketing dollars on a form of media where return on ad spend (ROAS) can’t be precisely calculated is a no-brainer. The layoffs and budget cuts that most businesses are experiencing have caused companies to be exceedingly demanding about ROI. So is now the time to abandon all of your print marketing campaigns? Probably not, but you should closely examine your marketing mix and make sure all of your media buys are yielding a positive ROI. If not, now is the time to reevaluate your current marketing strategies.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising such as Google’s AdWords program, provides the ability to track conversions generated from your ad, whether your conversion is a sale or a lead. In addition to conversion tracking, PPC advertising collects extremely useful data that can be used to easily calculate ROAS and provides the ability to make changes to your marketing strategies if you aren’t meeting your goals. Other online display ads can be tracked via a web analytics program by adding a customized meta tag to your display ad. This method will give you information on the number of users who clicked on your ad along with the amount of time those users spent on your website, the number of pages viewed by those users, and the geographic location of the users. However, a third-party conversion tracking system would need to be implemented to enable conversion tracking and to calculate ROAS for online image ads.
Although many advertisers have become less interested in newspaper and magazine advertising, there are still opportunities to make print marketing work for your business. Numerous magazines provide access to niche markets and newspapers can still be a useful avenue for local markets, especially if you are targeting a wide audience or an older demographic. Print catalogs can be persuasive when integrated with the ability for consumers to shop online, and some experts argue that direct mail marketing is a more trusted form of advertising than email blasts or unsolicited image ads on the web.
If you do plan to continue advertising in print, make sure you are doing everything you can to track the results of your print campaigns to ensure your efforts are generating positive ROAS. Consider using call tracking phone numbers in your print ads so you can determine how many phone calls you received from that ad. If you advertise in multiple print publications, assign a different call tracking phone number to each ad to gain even more insight into which publications are most effectively communicating to your target market. Refer to your analytics data to see if your website received an influx of visitors on the day your ad was distributed to readers (if your company has a website and you’re not using web analytics, then you are seriously missing out on extremely valuable information). However, relying on web analytics data alone will not give you the most accurate insight into the success of your print marketing since not every person who saw your ad will visit your website right away – or at all – depending on the call to action in your ad.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet answer for all businesses. In unstable economic times, companies need to really zero in on their target audience and decide what the best media platforms are for reaching that audience. The 2008 Starcom MediaVest Group’s Annual Media Futures Report predicts above the line advertising expenditures for 2009 will decrease by 2.4 percent – the largest mass media advertising decrease ever predicted. If businesses plan on spending less on advertising, then all companies owe it to their employees, investors and their consumers to explore new marketing opportunities and to compare the results generated by each media outlet to determine the best way to stretch advertising dollars and reap a positive ROI.
Category: 'Old School' Marketing