Ad campaigns tout power of magazines

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In late February, the Magazine Publishers of America launched a $40 million advertising campaign with the tagline, "Read on," promoting the marketing power of magazines.

The campaign followed the January debut of an estimated $3.5 million campaign from Conde Nast, publisher of The New Yorker and Wired, with the tagline, "Point of passion," which also trumpets the strength of print.

A campaign from Sappi Fine Paper North America, which featured the tagline, "Life with print," preceded-and perhaps inspired-both of these campaigns when it debuted last year.

American Business Media, back when it was known as American Business Press, beat all of these organizations to the punch a decade ago with a campaign promoting trade magazines as "The first read of decision makers." Today, ABM still runs a regular campaign promoting the power of trade media. "We've never gone dark," said ABM President-CEO Gordon T. Hughes.

All four of these organizations are simultaneously pushing the power of magazines to the marketing and advertising community with expensive b-to-b ad campaigns. Are they genuinely optimistic about a resurgence in print advertising, or are they protesting too much?

Battling the Internet

Robert Garrett, president of media investment bank AdMedia Partners, suggested the print establishment is concerned about its future. "How do you make magazines more important, or not lose importance? This may be a defense action," he said.

Vickie Szombathy, VP-media director at media buying shop Starlink Worldwide, said the campaigns make sense in light of surging spending on Internet advertising. "I can't blame them," she said. "You have to protect the shores from invaders."

Richard Beckman, president of Conde Nast Media Group, is bullish about print, especially considering the problems that digital video recorders pose for the 30-second TV spot. "If we approach this in the right way," he said, "we are about to enter another golden age of of magazines."

Some readings of the available statistics could give the opposite impression. Ad spending surged for most media in 2004. Internet spending led the way with a 21.4% gain, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Cable TV (13.8%), spot TV (11.7%) and network TV (10.7%) all posted double-digit gains.

Meanwhile, consumer magazines did post robust growth of 11.2%. In the aggregate, however, print struggled, with b-to-b magazines generating just 1.7% growth in 2004, a year when overall advertising growth totaled 9.8%.

The current campaigns attempt to position print as a legitimate alternative to electronic media such as the Web and TV.

"I think they're just trying to reaffirm their place in the market," Szombathy said of the campaigns. "It reinforces to advertisers that are using print that they're making the right choice, that they're in a strong vehicle and that there are valid reasons to be there."

MPA wraps predict future

The MPA launched its campaign by sending marketers prominent magazines with cover wraps intended to show that print will be around for some time. One cover wrap showed a cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, "Hell freezes over: Cubs win 2105 World Series."

An online ad in the campaign shows a woman in a futuristic, floating bathtub. Of course, she reads a magazine. Presenting print as timeless, the copy reads, "Radio age. Television age. Digital age. The magazine."

"Consumers are being bombarded and overwhelmed by commercial messages and other marketing techniques in an effort to get their attention," said Nicole Kaplan, MPA's VP-marketing and promotion. "In this age of interruption, magazines continue to engage consumers."

Conde Nast's "Point of passion" campaign shows readers embracing their copies of The New Yorker and other magazines the company publishes.

Beckman said one message of the campaign is the attractiveness of magazines to advertisers in an age when digital video recorders and the do-not-call list show that people spend most of their time seeking refuge from a media onslaught-but not when they're reading a magazine. "You can't passively read a magazine. It's an opt-in medium," he said.

Sappi Fine Paper debuted its "Life with Print" campaign in April 2004 in magazines such as Forbes and Fortune. The campaign didn't promote the product Sappi sells but what the company's customers used that product for-magazines.

Sappi's research indicated that its campaign had a positive effect. For instance, corporate marketers surveyed agreed that magazines were "old-fashioned" 27% of the time before the ads appeared. They agreed with that characterization just 17% of the time after the campaign debuted.

Jeffrey Pina, Sappi's director-corporate communications, said the company is gratified that others in the magazine industry are carrying on the message. "I think Sappi took a leadership role," he said. "I think the [magazine] industry needed that little push."

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