(from Forbes, July 26, 2012)
“What was the rating and share for our spot in ‘Ally McBeal’ last night?”
“How does the circulation of Forbes compare to Fortune?”
These were the types of questions once asked of media professionals. And truth be told, they were pretty easy to answer.
Today, however, the questions have changed significantly, especially in the B-to-B space. For example, you might hear: “What is my total reach of purchase influencers compared to decision-makers?” Or someone might ask one of the more common and difficult questions of late: “How do I measure my print advertising and justify the investment?”
For years, clients and media planners applied an approach of looking primarily at circulation figures when evaluating magazines and other print publications. Other forms of traditional advertising were also analyzed with a single-focused measuring stick that included TV viewer ratings and opportunity-to-see figures for out-of-home billboards. Then, interactive marketing came along and suddenly advertisers and marketers began discussing conversion rates, average time spent on site, video interaction rates, cost per click, cost per action/acquisition, website bounce rate, and on and on.
Seemingly overnight, marketers were able to get their hands on quick and precise metrics that went beyond simple reach and demonstrated perceived audience response. Suddenly, clients surrounded by an abundance of digital riches are requesting and requiring that all other media channels deliver more. Magazine readership data doesn’t seem to be enough today. In addition, post-execution ad-recall studies cannot be delivered tomorrow and, therefore, lack the immediacy so many 2012 advertisers desire.
As a result, many clients are questioning print’s performance, value and whether or not they should continue to run in the medium if they cannot glean the depth of response data seen with digital media.
While online analytics provide us with many varied and robust forms of engagement and response measures, too often, agencies and their clients once again latch on to an old-school approach of focusing on the single metric. In the online world, that metric continues to be the click-through rate.
As a former boss and mentor once told me, we should never look at any one form of media measurement as a silver bullet but rather as an aid to judgment. It is the aggregate of all data insights we should consider when evaluating the success of an integrated marketing communications plan.
Much like the relentless quest to unearth and activate consumer research insights, advertising analytics and metrics require a similar journey of exploration. Consequently, as marketers, we are asked to justify continued magazine spend. Thus, here are five compelling ways we can go beyond simple readership to evaluate the medium:
1. Use a vanity URL or subdomain. A vanity URL or subdomain is a section or small portion of a domain identified by a name or number before the main domain in a URL. Include the subdomain in the ad messaging via a call to action and track traffic that could only have come from your print advertising campaign. You can also use a unique URL if your landing page will have multiple pages.
2. Utilize a unique tracking phone number. In your print copy, using a phone number that can be tracked can enable you, with the right technology, to secure a report that details how many people called specifically from the ad. This tactic can also help to supplement lead-generation efforts.
3. Use QR or coupon codes in your messaging. Providing consumers and customers compelling reasons to visit a client’s site with easy-to-track codes can help measure print advertising effectiveness. While print has not historically been a multitasking media vehicle, the “pass-along nature” of print readers to share interesting solutions and offers with one another lends great potential for QR and coupon codes.
4. Conduct MRI Starch research. Starch research delivers key engagement metrics for magazine ad readership and deep insight into the involvement readers have with specific ads. This includes purchase behavior or intention, brand disposition, actions taken and more.
5. Don’t forget about tablets. eMarketer estimates that one in three consumers will be using a tablet by 2014. As an increasing number of readers consume magazines, research is demonstrating that tablet/e-reader ownership actually boosts magazine reading, and consumers are consuming just as much, if not more, magazine content. Advertisers running in magazines should reach out to their respective print publishers to secure any or all consumption, as well as ad-engagement data, providing that publication allows third-party tracking.
As a strained economy and changing marketplace in recent years has understandably caused marketers to lend greater scrutiny to their advertising spend, advertisers must effectively frame the measurement conversations to fairly represent the full array of communication contacts. This communication method certainly includes magazine, which has played a vital role in engaging and connecting with consumers over the years and is likely to continue to do so as new readership technology is adapted.
By avoiding the tendency to default to the silver-bullet metric, and giving consideration to a broader range of vehicle-specific analytics, we can help position media plans to deliver on marketing objectives whether we use magazine, tablets or word of mouth to spread our message.