But after reviewing the results, critics say all the studies really prove is just how hard it is to measure advertising effectiveness.
Research companies Millward Brown and ACNielsen Corp. were commissioned by MPA to conduct advertising effectiveness studies and released this spring.
Millward Brown compared the effectiveness of TV and magazines alone, and then how they fared when used together to determine the amount of advertising awareness generated per dollar spent. Nielsen examined purchase behavior of consumers exposed to specific magazine ad campaigns compared with a group with no exposure to the print campaigns.
The exercise was meant to determine if the ads actually generated product recognition and ultimately influenced consumers to buy.
The studies were initiated after advertisers challenged MPA to back its claims that magazines could build sales awareness, says Christine Miller, exec VP-marketing for MPA.
Both studies, she says, prove that dollar-for-dollar, magazines are a better buy for increasing consumer awareness.
After conducting a telephone survey, Millward Brown found magazines fared best when bought in tandem with TV. Results showed ad awareness among consumers who viewed campaigns both on TV and in magazines was 65%. That compares to the much lower 19% of those surveyed who were aware of the campaign only in magazines.
Just 16% of those surveyed said they were aware of the campaign after viewing TV advertising.
This Media Multiplier Effect, as MPA has dubbed it, creates a combined audience that is stronger than either one alone.
When magazines are added to a heavy TV viewing schedule, they deliver a new audience since the heavy magazine reader usually is only a light TV viewer, the researchers assert.
Coupled with those results is the idea that the effectiveness of TV is increased as a higher percentage of magazines are added to the media mix. A properly balanced mix, say researchers, was cost-effective.
Awareness points were awarded based on dollars spent on the brand.
Among brands where TV accounted for 80% to 90% of the media mix, an average $1.9 million per awareness point was spent. In a balanced media mix including magazines, advertisers spent $440,000 per awareness point.
SHORT-TERM SALES GROWTH
The Nielson study compared magazine readers' buying habits prior to and immediately following a 16-week test period in which they were exposed to particular magazine ad campaigns. Based on product sales data, MPA asserts the study proves magazine advertising effectively generated short-term sales for the majority of brands measured.
To prove effectiveness of the medium, researchers focused on several print campaigns for products without corresponding TV campaigns.
In the case of Nabisco's Grey Poupon mustard, the company spent more than $3 million in magazine advertising during the 16-week period. Ads ran in eight issues of four measured magazines. Brand penetration increased 22% in those households exposed to the ads.
Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, handles Grey Poupon.
While critics trust the methodology used in the two surveys, some media buyers argue results aren't as conclusive as the MPA claims.
NUMBERS TOO HIGH
"Millward Brown ran into resistance, because magazine numbers were so high," says Steve Greenberger, senior VP at Grey Advertising's MediaCom, New York. "There might have been problems with the interpretation of data. Nielsen was more directional. Research people are going to scrutinize it, but it does present a picture of the media mix at different levels of spending."
Dan Binder, VP-media director, Starcom USA, Chicago, called the results "inconclusive," specifically pointing to the Nielsen findings.
"The Nielsen study follows 10 brands over a pre-test and post period, but it doesn't go into any diagnostic interpretation," he says. "MPA wants people to draw their own conclusions, but they received data points, which were relatively small, because of very little funds. They need to be careful about people drawing conclusions that may shake the credibility of the study."
The task of structuring a study that satisfies everyone is the ultimate challenge. Still, Ms. Miller concludes both studies were effective in proving MPA's claims regardless of the amount spent on the studies.
Others in the media research field agree such claims, even well-founded, are difficult to sell, especially when the studies are self-endorsed.
But as long as hard data are available, the endorsement should be irrelevant, says Alain Tessier, chairman-CEO of Mediamark Research.
"Both studies are restatements," he says. "You have to keep saying again and again that magazines work . . . The results were very positive and showed aggressive action on the part of MPA."
However, he feels the extensive emphasis on comparative data was not necessary.
"We shouldn't be obsessed with comparison," Mr. Tessier says.
Robert Coen, senior VP-forecasting at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, applauded MPA. In a June semi-annual report, he stated that broadcast TV ratings were actually declining, while cable, radio and print advertising are gaining.
"I firmly believe that advertising in magazines is effective in persuading [consumers]," Mr. Coen says. "Magazines should be a part of a media mix for most marketers if they're going to maximize effectiveness."
LOOK TO OWN RESULTS
Ultimately, advertisers are going to look at their own results. If their product is a better sell for TV, they may opt for less magazine in the media mix and vice-versa.
"At any point," Mr. Binder says. "a media mix is more valuable than a single medium."
A balanced diet of TV and print ads offers consumers substantial exposure to brands and can influence an increase in sales, says Cynthia Evans, senior VP at Media Edge, New York.
The Media Multiplier Effect, she says, works because it is a combined effort.
According to Ms. Evans, for many types of ads, print is an effective medium when explaining contents and quality.
"What's most important is that whether the results had been great or greater,