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How Magazine Advertising Works (5th edition)

The full report may be downloaded without charge.  It is a pdf file of 1348kb and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.  Click here to download the report.

This 114-page report was commissioned by the PPA (the UK’s Periodical Publishers Association) and is in its fifth edition – dated July 2005. It is a synthesis of the large body of existing research which demonstrates how readers use magazines, how the advertising within them operates, and that magazine advertising sells products. In setting out an account of how magazine advertising works, each step is proven by citing the supporting research.
The report has an Executive Summary, which is given in full below:

The reader relationship

• The magazine medium’s essential strength lies in the active way in which readers choose and use their magazines. Magazines are an active medium, with the reader in control.

• Since different categories of magazine fulfil different needs they work in different ways, which are well adapted to their readers’ requirements. Similarly, within categories there are vital distinctions of character between individual titles, giving each title its own unique positioning.

• Readers become deeply engaged with their magazines. As a result a strong relationship, a bond of trust, grows up between the reader and his or her chosen magazines. Reading a favourite magazine is like talking with a friend.

• A reader’s identification with an engaging magazine can go well beyond the simple provision of information and ideas. When a magazine strikes a chord it can reinforce the reader’s own self-image. This creates a particularly powerful and trusting relationship.

• Readers give commitment to their magazines. The time spent reading is substantial, and the copies are read thoroughly. Copies tend to be read repeatedly, often picked up more than once during a day and on more than one day. More than 90% of all pages are opened by the typical reader. The average page in a paid-for magazine is looked at 2.5 times by each reader.

• Readers have their own repertoire of magazines to meet different needs and moods. Matching the mood and the magazine reinforces the values of the personal relationship and ensures that reading takes place in a highly receptive frame of mind.

The advertiser relationship

• The intimacy between reader and magazine benefits advertisers. The magazine environment delivers a reader in the right frame of mind to be receptive to the advertising. In the sympathetic context of the right magazine, the strong positive brand values of the magazine can transfer onto the advertisements.

• The stronger the reader’s affiliation with the magazine as a brand, the higher the level of endorsement that the advertising receives from the magazine’s personality.

• Advertising is seen as an integral part of magazines. Relevant advertising is valued by readers, and is consumed with interest. Readers screen advertisements in much the same way as they screen the editorial - looking for items that interest, intrigue, catch the eye, entertain, inform.

• Because advertisements are relevant and valued, ad clutter is not a problem in magazines. Clutter does not depress reading of ads, and may create a marketplace.

• Readers take action as a result of seeing advertising in magazines.

• Targeting with precision and without wastage is a key strength of magazines.

• The communication can be enhanced by using different creative executions in different types of magazine - targeting through the creative work as well as through selecting the appropriate audience.

• Creative formats such as gatefolds, textures, special papers, samples, sponsorship, advertisement features (‘advertorials’), and so on can create additional impact and interaction.

• The ‘presenter effect’ means that the interpretation of a given advertisement can be influenced by the specific publication in which it appears.

• It is wise to pre-test the creative executions in order to ensure that they take maximum advantage of this active involvement in advertisements, and that they communicate the intended messages.

Evidence that magazine advertising sells products

• The landmark ‘Ad Track’ survey proved that magazine advertising can generate marked increases in advertising awareness.

• ‘Ad Track’ also proved that magazines can generate movement in willingness to consider buying the advertised brands.

• PPA’s ‘Sales Uncovered’, a 2005 analysis of TNS Superpanel data, showed that magazine advertising was associated with an 11.6% uplift in sales of fmcg products, in money terms. In volume terms, the uplift was 18.1%. There were also increases in market share, brand penetration, and weight of purchase.

• ‘Sales Uncovered’ also showed that the medium term (12 month) return on investment from magazine advertising was £2.77 for the average fmcg brand. This is comparable with that of television advertising.

• There are many studies and case histories in which magazine campaigns are shown to sell products effectively and sometimes dramatically. PPA, IPA, FIPP and individual publishers have all released examples. 

Channel planning: positioning magazines within the total media environment

• ‘Channel planning’ is a fresh way of looking at the planning of communication campaigns. ‘Communication’ is wider than ‘advertising’. A greater number of communication channels are being considered than in previous decades. This imposes fresh requirements on the provision of research.

• Publishers need to spell out how magazines fit into the mix of channels, defining the unique contribution of magazines.

• In comparisons between six media – magazines, newspapers, newspaper supplements, TV, radio and websites – magazines lead in terms of providing interesting information and being tailored to users’ needs.

• Advertising in magazines is seen more positively than advertising in other media.

• Magazines, followed by websites, are the most action-oriented of the six media.

• There is growth in multi-tasking – using another medium or doing some other activity while consuming media – but magazine reading has relatively low distraction. When sharing time with television or radio, magazines attract the main attention.

• Magazines and the internet work well together. Information in magazines sometimes leads readers to obtain more details on the internet, and they may then purchase something as a result of exposure to both media.

• Customer magazines improve the brand image of the commissioning companies, and boost consumer spending on the brand by about 8%.

• Sales promotions work better when accompanied by magazine advertising. However promotions are not necessarily profitable at all.

Mixed-media advertising: the effectiveness of combining magazines and television

• Magazines and television are complementary to one another. TV advertising is powerful, intrusive but fleeting. Magazine advertising is under the control of the readers, carries the reader-relationship values, and can reach light viewers. There is clear evidence that a TV-plus-magazines strategy will be more effective than a TV-only campaign.

• Most TV-only campaigns give inadequate weight to important sectors of the market - lighter viewers of commercial television, who tend to be younger, upmarket and better educated. A combination of television and magazines can achieve a very considerable improvement in the way exposures are distributed across the audience. In other words, better targeting.

• Because of the different ways in which the two media work, the communication from a TV campaign can be enhanced by adding magazines. Magazines can both convey new information that is not in the TV commercial, and lead people to perceive the TV commercial in new ways. The result is a richer, more complete communication. Magazines make television work harder. The page and the screen nourish each other.

• Magazine campaigns create awareness at a very similar level to television. The Adtrack study showed that across a range of campaigns, the average awareness achieved by 100 gross rating points in TV was 13%, and in magazines the average was exactly the same, 13%. But the magazine exposures are generated at roughly half the cost of TV.

• Evidence from America reached the same conclusion: dollar for dollar, magazines deliver significantly higher advertising awareness levels than television.

• PPA’s ‘Sales Uncovered’ 2005 study showed that magazine advertising has a similar sales effect to television advertising, but at a much lower cost.

• Reinforcing this, PPA’s earlier analyses of consumer panel data also found that magazines produce significant gains in market share when used in combination with television advertising. Among the heavier-reading section of magazine readers, magazine advertising increased average brand share by 11%, over and above the effect of the television advertising.

• Other analyses from America showed that, dollar for dollar, magazines generate more sales than television.

• More and more market tests and case histories, in UK and elsewhere, are proving that mixed-media TV-plus-magazines campaigns out-perform the TV-only strategy in selling products.

• The improved performance from a mixed-media campaign is due to a combination of better targeting (especially among the lighter/younger/upmarket segments) and more powerful communication than television alone can deliver.

• The 2004 NRS Readership Accumulation Survey enables exposures to magazine advertising to be distributed through time in an accurate way, reflecting the rate of build-up of readers of a magazine issue. This means that magazine advertising can be planned in the same way as television advertising: through weekly ratings points and weekly reach estimates.

• All media are subject to diminishing returns, and many television campaigns appear to have reached the point of very low marginal returns. The marginal TV money would be better spent in another medium, especially magazines.

• There are strong arguments for continuous advertising pressure (as opposed to heavy bursts with gaps in between). Magazines are excellent at delivering this, whether on their own or in combination with other media.

• When TV and magazines are being used together, it pays to put at least 25%-30% of the budget into magazines, according to several studies.
• Television and magazine advertisements should run together rather than at different times, so the messages can interact for maximum synergy.

• In times of recession, it pays to maintain or even increase one’s advertising instead of cutting it.


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