Magazines Create 'Industry-Wide' Guarantee of Print Ads' Results

Return on Investment Promised to Advertisers That Buy Enough Ad Pages

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Magazines are trying to counter years of declining ad-page sales with a promise that print advertising works.
Magazines are trying to counter years of declining ad-page sales with a promise that print advertising works. Credit: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

The magazine industry, which has been increasingly emphasizing its digital reach, is making a new play to backstop advertising in its print editions, forging an "industry-wide" guarantee that ad pages will achieve sales results for marketers. If those results don't materialize, qualifying marketers will be made whole with free ad space or refunds.

The program, called the Print Magazine Sales Guarantee, was developed by the medium's chief trade group, MPA -- The Association of Magazine Media. Its members include Time Inc., Conde Nast, Meredith Corp., Hearst Magazines and many others.

The association declined to identify which publishers are part of the program, saying only that they reach 75% of magazine readers, but representatives for Time Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith said their companies are participating.

"We are confident in our product, its future and the unique role that print magazines play in our multi-platform ecosystem to drive ROI and lift advertisers' brand sales," said Stephen Lacy, chairman-CEO at Meredith Corp. and chairman of the MPA board of directors.

The program is meant to counter consumer magazines' long decline in ad pages, which haven't posted industry-wide annual increase since 2005. The business' print advertising performance has become harder to quantify since since MPA stopped releasing ad-page counts last year, replacing it with a measure of magazine audiences, but consumer-magazine print ad revenue fell 6.2% in the first half from the period a year ago, according to Kantar Media. Overall measured media declined 3.9%, Kantar Media said.

An advertiser can receive the new guarantee if the product it is promoting comes from a category like packaged food, in which outside research firms such as Nielsen Catalina Solutions track sales closely. The advertiser must also buy enough pages to reach the equivalent of 150 gross rating points among adult consumers over 12 months. And it needs to be running a bigger campaign with the publisher than in the year earlier.

Publishers will compare product sales among a group of households exposed to the ads to sales among a control group. If the return on investment isn't greater than the advertiser's outlay on the ads, the publisher will rebate the difference.

Time Inc., Meredith and other publishers have previously offered similar guarantees on their own.

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