October 2006 - Print Prospects

Despite challenges such as decreasing circulation and stiff competition among fellow advertisers, direct response print marketing continues to be a viable method for marketers.

By David Lustig

With direct response advertising saturating practically every avenue of communications, advertisers, as well as the people they hire to create their message, have to think smarter, quicker and more efficiently to get their message heard. That is especially true in direct response print marketing.

“Now, more than ever, it is essential to create brand awareness,” says Nancy Lazkani, president and CEO of Icon Media Direct in Van Nuys, Calif. “Consumers are savvier, technologically advanced and have an ‘on demand’ mentality. Advertisers have to be increasingly creative in order to catch and keep consumer attention, as well as make them remember the brand.”

ALCiS devotes half of its print ad spending to local and national newspapers and half to national magazines targeted to those who suffer from mild to chronic pain.
Here the ad creative is designed around the holiday season.
In addition to an 800 number, many DR print ads include an offer, such as a free 30-day trial.
New Balance’s print ad for its fitness product directs consumers to retail.
When including an offer in a DR print ad, it’s important to create a sense of urgency. For example, in this LCA Vision ad for LasikPlus, consumers are urged to call now to take advantage of its “End of Summer Savings Event.”

Not only do they have to bend with consumer trends, but also advertisers are paying more and more attention to each other.
“As soon as there is a hint of success in a campaign, the knock-offs come out of the woodwork,” adds Lazkani. “They not only mimic the product itself, but they are paying attention to where and when companies are advertising. If the original product doesn’t have a branding focus, it will be lost in the copycat advertising.”

Marianna Morello, president of Manhattan Media Services in New York, says, “Marketers need to first and foremost create a very compelling story for their products. Then the CPM [cost per thousand] at which they purchase media must be low enough for them to have a chance for real success.”

Also, says Jennifer Nading, a marketing executive at Synergixx of Sewell, N.J., more and more print advertisers are putting their web URL on the advertisement along with the 800 number.

“This makes sense in a world that is web-based,” explains Nading, “but do not forget to consider how it can affect tracking your response and [the] close rate.

“If you are using a dedicated 800 number for your print ad, then your call center can accurately track every call and order that comes in from the advertisement. However, once some of those potential callers start looking on the website, how do you track their order back to your print ad? Make sure your website allows for accurate and dedicated tracking.”

It is evident, however, that some magazines, especially consumer-based, have been struggling with decreases in circulation. With more avenues to spend advertising dollars, is it becoming more difficult to convince a client to stick with print?

“Overall, circulation numbers for both national and local daily paid newspapers declined in 2006 an average of 2 to 5 percent,” says John Bosacker, senior director, business development for Novus Print Media Network in Plymouth, Minn.

He adds, “Although this is a decrease, I believe it is relative against the fact that other print media channels are growing, including 75 new national consumer magazines introduced in 2006, and the circulation growth of suburban newspapers in the 25,000 to 50,000 range. Of the publications that are shrinking in size, our clients end up paying less per net buy, all the while knowing who they have reached based on more accurate circulation reporting.”

There is also the trend of traditional paper publications moving to an electronic format. Is that affecting DR print advertising?
“No,” says Manhattan Media Services’ Morello.

“People still love to read their magazines at their leisure,” she explains. “They go to the Internet for information. Reading magazines is a lifestyle choice.”

Acknowledging, however, that overcoming these challenges can be difficult, what is the best course to take?

“Marketers need to remember that newspapers and magazines are not going away anytime soon,” continues Morello. “Customers refer to the Internet for specific search and news items. Hobbies and lifestyle will still prevail.”

“The talk of magazines going 100-percent online has faded,” says Novus’ Bosacker, who adds that Salon.com magazine is the only company still in that space.”

“Publishers see multiple touch points between [offline] and online to their subscription base,” he says. “In addition, with print still leading the way in ‘long-form journalism,’ many readers can go from online to offline and back, as they dig deeper into editorial content.”

Although there are clear differences between general market print ads and direct response print ads, are there examples of well-done general market ads that direct response marketers could learn from when creating their own campaigns?

“Absolutely,” exclaims Lazkani. “It is essential for direct response creative directors to keep their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in the general world. The key is having a branding aspect to incorporate a generally friendly design, while including direct response elements to reach consumers immediately.”

She continues, “An effective ad serves two purposes. It must sell to the consumer but also implant the branding message. It is a delicate balance, but it can be done well if direct response creative directors know what is happening on both sides of the spectrum.”

Morello believes general market print in the pharmaceutical world has taught everyone a great lesson. These huge companies, she says, have spent billions of dollars in print to drive home their brands, while smart direct response marketers were already doing it this way before the pharmaceutical companies.

Another example Morello gives on the subject of successful print campaigns she has been a part of include Hair U Wear/Great Lengths and FitnessQuest.

Nading, explaining that Synergixx is not taking on as many print ads as it used to, cites a successful advertorial on weight loss as an example of what her firm is currently involved in.

“When these types of ads are done right, they work well,” she says. “The key is placement. Moms and women over 35 all want to lose weight, period. I think the key to this ad is that it is a soft offer, so they do not out the price, but still tell the caller what they can get-buy two, get one free. A soft offer alone does not seem to cut it for most products anymore. [Readers] need more information before they call in, and even then may require a call back to finally place the order.”

Bosacker says, “In the past year, long-time Novus client LCA Vision-LasikPlus-asked us to uncover new ways they could use print to generate cost-effective leads and new customers for their Lasik eye surgery services.”

He explains that the company helped LCA test and in many cases, roll out inserts, Post-It Notes, comic gate folds, fly sheets, Kraft wraps, regional magazines and more. “LCA continues to use each new opportunity as a way to test multiple offers, payment options and ad sizes, all while connecting with their target audience,” Bosacker says.

He cites another campaign, ALCiS Health, which is currently marketing a direct-to-consumer pain relief product.

“The on-page offer promotes a free 30-day trial of the product along with 10 free treatment packets with each order,” he says.

“In short, ALCiS is using print as a profitable media supplement to enhance their sales channels and to help their overall return on investment. Half of their spending has been in local and national newspapers and half in national magazines targeted to those who suffer from mild to chronic pain,” says Bosacker.

But not every ad campaign is a guaranteed success story.

“We ran test ads for a client with a prostate relief product,” says Morello, who explains it was not effective until her firm reworked it. “We changed the headline and offered a free trial for the product. The free trial offer converted to real sales and the campaign is now working.”

Is there still a real future for direct response print marketing? Absolutely.

“As media integration in direct marketing programs continues,” says Bosacker, direct response marketers are encouraged to consider print media.

“With a strategic plan in place, Novus’ new clients agree that testing print makes sense and gives them the opportunity to test offers and creative-ultimately helping them generate incremental sales.

“Although finding ‘untested’ dollars can be a challenge, the cost of entry for print is relatively low. Many direct marketers find that simply utilizing under-performing broadcast, direct mail or radio dollars is the best way to carve out an initial print budget without increasing their overall media budget. Based on its low startup cost and speed to market, print also can be a smart ‘first choice’ media for programs that are new to direct response.”

Icon Media Direct’s Lazkani summarizes, “It is an uphill battle to convince clients to take the dive into print-especially if there are circulation decreases. But as long as the publications continue to keep up with their consumers, print stands the test of time.”

David Lustig is a contributing writer to Electronic Retailer magazine. We would appreciate your feedback. To submit comments, please e-mail the magazine at [email protected].


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