Meredith Expands Program Guaranteeing Sales Lift for Big Advertisers

Publisher Adding Product Categories, Opening Up More Slots for Marketers

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Some major magazine companies are expanding efforts to guarantee that advertising with their brands directly increases sales.

Meredith Corp., the publisher of magazines such as Ladies' Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens, is expanding its program for large advertisers to encompass more product categories, such as pharmaceuticals, and the number of clients it will work with. "We're a multimedia company," said Tom Harty, president of Meredith's National Media Group, which sells digital media as well as magazine ad pages. "We just feel like print gets bashed a little too much."

In the first year of Meredith's program, participating marketers earned an average return of $7.81 for every $1 they spent on ads in company magazines, Meredith said. The program uses consumer purchase data from sources such as Nielsen's Homescan panel to compare sales to households that receive Meredith magazines and a comparable group that does not. So far it has covered categories such as food, beauty and over-the-counter drugs.

Time Inc., meanwhile, plans to add evaluation of tablet and mobile ads to its program this year, a company spokeswoman said. Participating clients have seen returns ranging from $4 to $33, she added.

This kind of research seems likely to become more common. "There are more opportunities to merge media exposure with purchasing behavior," said Jeff Bickel, VP-delivery and analytics at Nielsen Catalina Solutions, which integrates Nielsen's media and household purchase information with Catalina's frequent shopper data. "That's really the heart of this type of analysis: to understand directly that here's a group of consumers, of households, that are exposed to this marketing and are compared to a like group of consumers who did not have that exposure."

Marketers increasingly demand some sort of evidence that their ad spending is paying off, and the media sellers that can provide it may get a leg up. "We encourage all of our media partners to bring us more evidence in the form of custom research in order to better understand what is working and what is not, or at least not as well," said Mark Kaline, global director-media, licensing and consumer services at Kimberly-Clark, which participated in the program. "The Meredith sales guarantee was a unique approach to that end and we will be holding that up and encouraging our other partners to have the courage to do the same."

That said, Mr. Kaline added, the overall methods that marketers use to determine return on investment need to be revisited, making a reevaluation of traditional marketing mix modeling now underway at the Advertising Research Foundation "one of the most important efforts in the industry today."

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