Award-winning media kits

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While questioning whether they will still be producing printed media kits five years from now, the publishers of the three media kits that were selected for top honors in the first-ever Media Kit Awards presented by American Business Media agreed they will continue to invest in quality for as long as clients say they want the kits.

The media kit for Hanley Wood's Builder and Big Builder publications won the competition, followed by runner-up IEEE Spectrum, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. The bronze medalist was the media kit for VNU's two meetings publications, Successful Meetings and Meeting News .

"Every fall, I ask media buyers whether they still want to have a physical media kit," said Warren Nesbitt, group publisher for Builder and Big Builder . "They're still saying yes, which is why we're still doing it. And for as long as we're doing it, the design and content will be first-class. The minute our clients stop asking for print, the media kit will be online only."

"For the moment, we need to have [our media kit] both in print and online," said Jim Vick, publisher, IEEE Media. "But I could easily see us not having a print kit in five years. We're headed there." In fact, Vick said, "we're cutting back the budget 25% to 30% for the printed kit for 2007 so that we can put more resources in the Web direction." He added that IEEE Spectrum's 2006 media kit, which received a number of other awards in addition to ABM's, was so well received that it can be updated rather than reinvented, which is where a large portion of the savings will come.

Rich O'Connor, president of VNU's travel, performance and design group, brings together the entire editorial, sales and marketing team for Successful Meetings and Meeting News before taking the first step in creating each year's media kit. "We always ask, `Do we want to pare back?' The decision so far has been that we need the media kit, which is our silent salesperson, to represent us with the highest quality," he said. "We do get some customers who chuckle, though, and say, `You guys are still doing printed media kits?' "

Graphics and production values were considered when the media kits were judged by a committee of volunteers from multiple disciplines within ABM member companies but, according to judge Sonya Ruff Jarvis, marketing director at Reed Exhibitions, "the most important question was, `Did the media kit do all the basic, fundamental things it needs to do in order to get the customer to spend money with you?' " Ruff Jarvis is vice chairwoman of ABM's media promotions committee, which developed and oversaw the awards program.

One theme that united all the winning kits was that they were based on direct input from clients.

Blanche McGurr, IEEE Spectrum's marketing promotion manager, said, "The main thing they told us [at the focus group] is that we hadn't put enough information upfront in the media kit about who we are." In response, McGurr made sure "we put our audience right upfront."

"We asked media buyers and media directors, `What numbers do you look for when you're evaluating publications?' " said Hanley Wood's Nesbitt. As with McGurr's finding, he said, "their top answer was numbers on the influence and power of our readers." So data on the readers is broken out with charts and graphs. "Also, for each section, we show photographs of projects under construction, projects completed and people," Nesbitt said. "That's our business."

Staff in VNU's meetings group also gather physical media kits from all the publications they admire. From that process, the team has learned that a media kit must stand out aesthetically, present information as simply and clearly as possible and flow seamlessly from topic to topic, O'Connor said.

"The media kit is a source of pride for all our staff," he said. "More important is the payoff: I can tell you that we measure ROI [return on investment], and it's significantly high."

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