Magazine research tries covers

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Audits & Surveys' new test looks beyond logos only

Audits & Surveys is trying to upgrade its research with miniature, color magazine covers--instead of standard b&w logos--as part of a test to determine primary and total audience levels for national publications.

The test represents Audits & Surveys' first major foray into total audience research. Although magazine and ad agency executives are intrigued by the new research, there is still a debate on whether the end results will be significantly more accurate.


The two largest magazine researchers, Mediamark Research Inc. and Simmons Market Research Bureau, both show the logos to readers to determine total audience in their 10,000- person surveys. The theory for the testing is that color covers will draw more attention and recall.

"We're turning into a print media lab," said Paul Donato, Audits & Surveys senior VP-research, who will evaluate results at the end of the summer. Mr. Donato said his company isn't yet committed to either method for the full survey run in the fall. "We're testing both logo recognition and cover recognition," he said.


Two more ad agencies have signed letters of intent for the initial round of new magazine research by Audits & Surveys: Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., and Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. That brings the number of agencies involved to 13.

Hugh White, VP-research at The New York Times Co. Magazine Group, said the group is being wooed by Audits & Surveys and may sign a letter of intent once the summer test results are revealed.

Currently, he subscribes to MRI and uses Simmons for custom studies. Mr. White applauded the Audits & Surveys move to magazine cover research.


"If all you use are logos, the reader's eye is always going to be attracted to the bigger, bolder logo," he contended. "What you end up measuring is logo awareness, not magazine readership."

Audits & Surveys, looking to respond to magazines' desire that researchers reach more upscale readers, is using a mailed survey that will include subscribers. With the test, it's also trying to resolve complaints by national newspapers such as USA Today and The Wall Street Journal that MRI evaluates them unfairly in comparison to weekly magazines.


"Probably no one methodology is going to be right for every publisher out there," said Jane Beresford, partner-media research at BJK&E Media, New York. "If [Audits & Surveys] uses current covers, it probably will have no impact on primary readers but it will probably be a better memory jog than a plain logo cover for total audience."

"I don't think you'll find a major difference by showing covers," said Page Thompson, exec VP- U.S. media director at DDB Needham Worldwide. "Covers can be just as confusing as logos," he said, "especially in categories like the Seven Sisters or newsweeklies."

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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