June 2007 - Fit For Print

Contrary to popular industry buzz, print media is alive, well, practical and perhaps more effective than ever. As digital and electronic media continue to fight over disinterested eyeballs, print remains a place where consumers not only expect, but also actually enjoy a fresh advertisement.

By Pat Cauley

Thomas Jefferson once said that advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. Now, while that doesn’t bode well for journalists, it should certainly send a shock of inspiration to the direct marketer who’s been looking for ways to attract new customers. Regardless of which print medium a client chooses to run an ad in, the ad must generate ROI to be worth it. To answer the questions you’re already asking in your head, Electronic Retailer has turned to some of the industry’s experts to figure out what makes a direct response print advertising campaign a success in the present, instead of a money-draining cling to the past.

These experts shared their general thoughts on DR print ads in conjunction with specific campaigns that are currently creating a huge splash for their clients. Marianna Morello, president of Manhattan Media Services in New York, selected the Soloflex WBV campaign-a highly successful health-and-fitness product. John Bosacker, director of business development for Plymouth, Minn.-based Novus Print Media Network, chose to analyze the blood-pressure solution InterCure RESPeRATE. Finally, COO Kristen Orton from STG Media in Tempe, Ariz., chose to reflect on a successful health-and-beauty product campaign. Regardless of the individual campaign, each agreed that the communication and relationship with the client are the key elements to success.

Soloflex ads are designed and placed to reach several highly targeted demographics.

Clients can first approach media experts in a variety of fashions. Some come with finished creative ready for the media planning stage, others show up with nothing more than a rough sketch on paper.

One thing that Orton commonly stresses when choosing and designing creative is the headline. “In the three to five seconds that you have to grab the reader’s attention, they should know the goal of the headline, inclining them to look at the rest of the ad,” she says.
Morello thinks it all depends on where you’re planning to run the ad. Product shots, like with her Soloflex campaign, tend to do well in magazines. “Our research has shown that more wordy ads, or advertorial, tend to do better in newspapers because consumers are reading the paper expecting to see that format,” she says.

In Novus’ case, Bosacker explains that his company typically consults on print ads, which may pertain to headlines, calls to action or offer types. “We will show them examples of an ad that was presented to us initially by a new client, and we then show them examples of the testing on that ad, as well as the results of that ad complete with our changes and recommendations,” he says. As with almost anything, there are a number of caution areas that marketers must be mindful of when deciding on the final creative in campaigns.

At STG Media, a common problem Orton runs into with print creative is the tendency for clients to try to make ads extremely attractive and pretty. While it makes for a striking looking ad, the problem she finds is that they don’t have a headline that engages the reader-that lets the reader know what they’re looking at. On the contrary, overly text heavy, non-attractive ads with all of the information a consumer could ever need are often skipped over. “There’s a balance between making it visually appealing and also having the information that’s going to take the consumer into that ad, want the product and react,” says Orton.

When faced with the choice between their ad and the ad that STG Media came up with, the clients chose their own based on what they wanted to express about features of the product. Given that consumers don’t know the ins and outs of the product, it didn’t perform nearly as well. “Clients are generally very much in love with their product. And the things that they love about their product are not always the things the consumer’s going to love. Once you get in the middle of something, it’s hard to step back and see a campaign from an unbiased point of view,” contends Orton. Since consumers are constantly bombarded with similar ads for similar types of products, she likes to help clients see the consumer perspective.

Not using the proper model is a common mistake that Morello sees with print creative. Too often, campaigns will have a young model aimed at the elderly or vise versa. Clients must be very aware of who they’re targeting because, according to Morello, “If the model’s too old, consumers don’t identify with them. I always tell them to go younger with models, even when targeting baby boomers. They feel younger than past generations and still view themselves as active.”

Bosacker’s cautious eye finds that a lot of times, clients try to get just the right photograph to communicate the use of the product. This approach can be tricky when dealing with a hard good, like a fitness product, that requires explanation. “With print, we’re talking about a one-dimensional media; clients should use the copy to sell the solution of the product, not the picture. They should rely more on the words, headlines and offers. Show the product from the quality perspective, well designed and packaged,” he says.

Bad testimonials don’t exclusively plague the DRTV market. Any print advertising insider will agree that testimonials are effective, but need to be approached with caution. Many magazines have been sued for claims made in ads.

Manhattan Media’s policy states that anyone who’s in an ad has to submit a release. They then document the testimonials and present them to the magazines, as well.

Deciding how much copy to include in the ad is a difficult case-by-case issue and often depends on the specific product and the type of publication.

“Testimonials are going to weigh 100 percent on the direct marketer. If they’re going to be used, they better be legitimate and validate the customer’s perspective in terms of how that product is benefitting their life. Testimonials are a natural fit for print, but shouldn’t be overused,” warns Bosacker.

Orton echoes the others’ concerns, detailing again that testimonials must be accurate, correct and have proper verification. “We always have a signed release from the person making a testimonial, complete with their name, title, company and company address. We do not accept P.O. box addresses when using testimonials,” she says.

Once the creative is selected and finished, the DR print media specialist helps the client place the ad where it can receive the most qualified leads and sales. Each expert approaches this process a little differently.

“When it comes to media planning and recommendation, we use outside subscribed research, proprietary research, an internal database and, of course, we also look at which publication has the lower rates,” says Bosacker.

For the blood pressure treatment device RESPeRate, Novus used MRI, Arbitron and some client sales data to determine the best markets to initially test. With additional newspaper result data, Novus took the next steps of testing national magazines that reached RESPeRATE’s primary target market. Currently, Bosacker is focused on growing RESPeRATE’s print media spending solely based on their unit sales against the cost of each publication buy.

Consequently, with the recent launch of Novus’ adSCRIPT, the company will have proprietary research and data to geo-target consumer markets that have 36 of the most prevalent diseases or conditions in the nation. For clients like InterCure, the adSCRIPT tool may be just what the doctor ordered for health related direct marketers looking for additional success in the print media space.

Morello’s strategy is figuring out the exact customer they’re trying to reach. In the case of Soloflex, there were many: an active woman trying to enhance her workout, the elderly who can’t handle rigorous routines and the executive who doesn’t have time for the gym, but wants a quick workout. They then pick the appropriate magazines based on what those demographics are reading.
Orton suggests first researching where the competition is running. She also stresses researching the buying trends for a particular product, giving the example that going heavy during the winter months on a product like sunscreen probably wouldn’t be the best move. “You also have to take into account which publications have high direct responders and which ones don’t,” says Orton.

Hindsight is 20/20, and although these ads are a current success, there’s always something that a marketer learns or would do differently.

“With InterCure’s campaign, I wish we would have gone into more national buys quicker so we could get an earlier read on how national magazines would do for the client. But a lot of times, you’re constrained by their budget,” says Bosacker.

For Orton, it went back once again to knowing the target audience. Her client was running the health-and-beauty ad in celebrity fashion magazines without taking time to realize why consumers chose to read those magazines. After stepping outside the box with STG Media, they reworked the images in the ad to reflect more of a celebrity guessing game-something commonly found in those types of publications. The adjustment was a major success for the campaign.

Whether deciding to run a campaign on TV, Internet, radio or print, some things never change. When reflecting on her campaign, Morello scaled back to the simple age-old formula that continues to work regardless of channel, “Every time, direct response should address a problem and have a quick solution.” For marketers looking to diversify their reach, perhaps print is just the right solution.

We would appreciate your feedback. To submit comments, please e-mail the magazine at [email protected].


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