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Build a Print Media Plan that Stands the Test of Time

The print industry - that is, newspapers, magazines and mailers - has been on the decline for several decades now, but it hasn’t given up without a fight. Some would even say it’s having a resurgence. This leaves advertisers and media buyers in an uncertain place when it comes to print, a medium that used to hold the majority of ad dollars. Should brands even have a print media plan, or should they allot their print budget to other channels more befitting of the digital age?

Is Print...Dead?

The print industry has been in decline for several decades, seeing one of its biggest drops about a decade ago during the Great Recession. According to eMarketer, ad spend declined over five billion dollars between 2008 and 2009. After that, the print industry has never been able to rebound and has continued falling. Does that mean advertisers are finding print ads to be less effective these days?

Not necessarily. There are just a lot more options than there used to be. Thirty years ago, the ad budget only needed to be divided between radio, linear television, print and the occasional billboard or poster. Today, though, we have social media advertising, PPC and SEM, podcast ads, online video, OTT and streaming platforms, digital out-of-home...the list keeps going. The pressures to find the most cost-effective media mix are higher than ever.

On top of that, it’s typically much easier to measure the success of digital media channels than print ads. Once a paper-based ad goes out into the world, it’s difficult to track impressions and conversions made as a result of it. We in the media industry like to have solid numbers to prove our efforts are working, and digital avenues make those numbers easy to collect and share.

Still, print is far from dead. Print ads resonate with consumers much better than their digital counterparts. If you were reading this same article in a paper-based publication for instance, you’d be able to recall it better and have a deeper emotional connection to it. The same goes for ads. You just need to learn how to formulate a print media plan for the current era and how to make it work for your overall budget.

The Current State of Print

The ad industry has been mildly worried about the decline of one of their mainstay media channels, but the decline of print may actually be due to advertisers’ fickle ways. Advertising spend, which has long been the main funder of print publications, has steadily declined, bringing in $13.4 billion in 2017 compared to $16 billion in 2013, according to Statista. That’s a significant drop in just four years. Magazines in particular have been hit hard according to eMarketer, which reports an 18% year-over-year drop in revenue from advertising. From 2017 to 2018, ad spend fell from $10.94 billion to $8.97 billion.

We are all aware that circulation of print newspapers and magazines is down. Print publications such as ESPN The Magazine and Glamour have been dying left and right. Print readership is modestly increasing, though. This means that the readers who are left tend to be more loyal and more engaged with the content they’re holding in their hands. This is great from an advertising perspective. While it’s difficult to find an attentive audience for your ads online, you can be sure the subscribers for a magazine want the monthly subscription they are paying for.

Why Should You Keep Print in Your Media Mix?

Print advertising has many proven benefits for your media plan that make it worthwhile to keep around.

Trustworthiness: More than any other type of ad, people trust the information shared through print advertisements, including those in newspapers and magazines. MarketingSherpa surveyed 1,200 Americans in 2016, and they report that 82% of respondents said they trusted print ads from newspapers and magazines, followed by TV ads at 80%, mailers at 76% and radio ads at 71%. You know which ads people trusted the least? Online pop-ups, podcast ads, mobile phone ads, online banner ads and social media ads.

Easy Recall: Ads are only as successful as their environment allows them to be. Print ads have the benefit of being surrounded by fewer distractions, especially compared to digital ads. Having a physical, tangible material to hold is easier for the brain to focus on, and the information will be easier to recall later. According to a report by Canadian neuromarketing firm TrueImpact, direct mailers took less cognitive effort to process and tested better for brand recall, compared to email and online display ads.

Emotional Impact: Print ads also elicit a more emotional response from people than other types of ads. A 2009 study conducted by Bangor University and branding agency Millwood Brown found that print media engages with our spatial memory networks, meaning our brains perceive the ads as being more “real”. The physical material produces responses in the brain that are connected with internal feelings. Essentially, consumers are much more likely to “internalize” paper-based ads than digital ads.

But Don’t be Afraid to Innovate

A print media plan obviously helps drive brand awareness and successful communication of your marketing message. In order to find a balance between maintaining the benefits of print in your advertising plan and contending with a much more diverse media landscape, think creatively about how you can innovate and optimize your print ads.

Technologically-advanced print ads: To give print a new life, technology allows for ways you can combine your print ads with a digital experience. Augmented print ads use an app that stacks digital content on top of your print ad using your smartphone. When a consumer looks at an ad with their phone, the print ad unlocks a world of digital content. Programmatic direct mail allows you to identify visitors to your website and deliver direct mail to their homes based on how they interacted with your website.

Incorporating real user stories: More and more, consumers are looking to other consumers to help them come to a purchasing decision. The proof of this trend can be seen in the rise in popularity in customer reviews for anything from restaurants to dog toys. Influencer marketing and case studies have a similar appeal. In your print ads, you can harness the same power of real consumer reviews and stories to drive conversions, educating and informing your audience rather than relying on claims and slogans.

Turning to niche publications: Bigger publications have certainly been struggling as of late, but niche publications still draw a very focused and dedicated audience of readers. These smaller magazines offer a great opportunity to target select groups of consumers already interested in a specific topic. If you can find a publication whose audience aligns with your own, your print ads can find a lot of success and high ROI.

Reenergize Your Print Media Plan

The Ward Group has had its proverbial fingers in the print industry since our founding in 1985. After more than three decades, we have a firm grasp on the level of detail and research that goes into crafting a print media plan capable of making a real impact. With us on your side, you’ll have a dedicated team of media buyers to manage the complex landscape of print advertising, from publication cycles to creative specs and sizing requirements.

In an increasingly virtual world, print is far from its deathbed. But to fully take advantage of this advertising format, our media stewards will lend you our expertise, recommendations and creative, proven solutions. Contact us today, and let’s make print cool again.

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