New Research on Ads in Magazine iPad Editions Strengthens Publishers' Case

Study Showed How Sports Illustrated Tablet Ads Outperformed Print Ads, According to Affinity Vista Service

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Regular third-party research on ads in magazines' iPad editions is finally taking off and, happily for magazines, is reinforcing the results of publishers' own research and one-off studies. How much of the iPad ads' impressive effects reflects novelty or other factors, however, remains unclear.

Ads in the iPad edition of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue were more memorable to readers than ads in the print edition and generated more reader actions, according Affinity's syndicated Vista service.

The most-recalled ad in the Swimsuit Issue's iPad edition. A version of the ad was also the most-recalled in print.
The most-recalled ad in the Swimsuit Issue's iPad edition. A version of the ad was also the most-recalled in print.

Ads in the iPad edition generated 21% higher recall than ads in the print edition, while reader-action scores -- registering actions such as visiting the advertiser's website, getting a more favorable opinion of the brand or, in the case of iPad editions, clicking on the iPad screen -- were 34% higher than in print. "The average percent of readers reporting that they visited an advertiser's website as a direct result of an iPad ad was almost twice as high as ads in print," Affinity said. Most but not all ads appeared in both editions.

While publishers have always argued the rather intuitive point that ads in an interactive edition would trigger more interaction, it's been hard to quantify such things without relying on publishers' internal research or one-time studies with limited scope. A study by Alex Wang at the University of Connecticut, for example, found that ads in digital editions outperformed print ads, but only examined the May 2010 issue of Wired.

Affinity's Vista service has been measuring electronic issues since the beginning of the year. GfK MRI Starch, another syndicated research provider, said it is measuring digital ads on a private basis for a major publishing client and has the methodology in place to do the same for other publishers.

It's not clear yet whether the medium -- print or tablet -- affects which ads perform best. In Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue, an M&M's ad was the most recalled both in print and on the iPad. In print, it appeared as a multi-page unit on the back cover. On the iPad edition, the ad included a link to a video of a swimsuit "photo shoot" featuring the M&M's character "Ms. Green."

In print, a page-four ad for Gillette Odor Shield generated the most reader action; it did not appear in the iPad edition. On the iPad edition, an Acura ad for the TSX Sport Wagon generated the most reader action; it did not appear in the print edition.

It's also not clear how much of ads' differing performance on each platform reflects the platform and how much reflects its particular audience. Sports Illustrated's iPad readers seem more likely to digitally interact with the brand in general, Affinity said, noting that twice as many digital readers had visited the SI.com website in the prior six months.

And it's hard to tell whether the novelty of iPad editions still has consumers paying closer attention than they normally would. It will be interesting to see whether these results remain consistent as time goes on.

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