BtoB

Print: Doorway to the Web

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It's 2011 and print—a battered and beleaguered medium in the interactive age—is still with us. Although diminished, print remains a key ingredient in the b-to-b mix. It has impact and shelf-life; it has texture and a certain portability.

And print has a way of commanding an audience's attention that its flashing, beeping, buzzing electronic counterparts are hard-pressed to match. But for print to be most effective, it must be smartly integrated with other media, particularly the Web and its cornucopia of content.

That's why we have long maintained that one of print's primary roles is to drive the audience to the marketer's website. That's true for branding ads—even truer for ads pushing products and services. Yet nearly a full generation after the Web became standard operating equipment, the Chasers continue to encounter print ads that are oblivious to their need to warm the doorknob for their companies' websites, where the telling and the selling can be done in much greater depth.

On the other hand, we have found plenty of examples of print pieces that work almost seamlessly with the Web. Here's a quick sampling, from indifferent to inspired, starting with indifferent.

Barclays Capital presents a ribbon of highway to visually underscore the lead-in: “Because success isn't a destination—it's a journey.” Seems like we've heard that one before; but that's not the point, which is that Barclays misses an opportunity to direct its audience to the Web. It's there where Barclays could have explained in much greater detail than in print how its investment banking products and services can drive a customer from point A to point B.

Locating the company's Web address is more challenging than playing Where's Waldo? OK, we'll give you a clue. It's secreted away in small type in the upper right-hand corner of the ad—the last place anyone would ever look for it. We suggest a more logical placement for the company Web address and introducing it with some type of call to action.

Vale, a Brazil-based global mining company, uses print to tell a story about its commitment to sustainability and diversity. But to better establish that it's on the side of the angels, Vale should march the audience to www.vale.com/future. Unfortunately, the URL is treated as an afterthought in the bottom left-hand corner of the ad. Readers are given no incentive to tap in the address that would unearth a wealth of information about the company and its efforts to be a good citizen.

Now let's move to the other end of the spectrum and two print ads that are acutely mindful of driving readers to the Web. British Airways engages the audience with a case history about John and Erin O'Sullivan, founders of a heat-resistant clothing manufacturing company, who needed to iron out some problems with a supplier in India. Rather than trying to fix things via e-mail, the O'Sullivans flew to India—on BA's nickel—as part of its Face-to-Face program for small-business customers. At the conclusion of the tale, BA prudently invites readers to learn more about the program. In a bolder face, the call to action states: “To find out more visit ba.com/facetoface.”

Finally, there is this eye-pleasing ad for Google Apps with the headline: “Over 3 million businesses have gone Google.” A short burst of copy near the bottom of the white space-dominated ad says, “ "Going Google' means switching your business to Google Apps: an online e-mail, calendar and document program that's based on the Web.”

The last sentence wisely invites readers to learn more at its Web address. Even better, is the QR—or quick response—barcode to the left of the copy block. Using mobile or smartphones equipped with barcode readers, people can instantly learn more about Google Apps with a single click. It's certainly easier than trying to recall a URL. The Google ad is reflective of an encouraging trend that allows technology to better link print with the Web.

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