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Magazine Advertising Effectiveness

The full report may be downloaded without charge.  It is a pdf file of 122kb and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.  Click here to download the report.

The report reviews the principal issues surrounding ad effectiveness monitoring and pre-testing, as it applies to magazines. It is not a detailed ‘how to’ guide but a resume of broad approaches, seen in the context of the underlying ideas about how advertising can achieve its effects and what it is realistic to attempt to measure.

The full Summary of the report (published in May 2000) is reproduced below.

A consumer-centred view of advertising

In order to monitor advertising effectiveness it is necessary to form an opinion about how advertising works - unless sales or equivalent are to be the only criterion.

A consumer-centred view is more realistic than a brand-centred view. Consumers face a vast number of advertising messages each day, from many different media. Some advertisements are able to attract full attention because of their relevance or interest. Others are processed with varying degrees of incomplete attention, whatever the medium. These can still be very worthwhile to the advertiser, in adding to the complex of images, emotions and knowledge in a consumer’s mind, which influences purchasing decisions.

Since some of these valuable exposures to advertising messages are absorbed subconsciously, it is not always necessary that a consumer should remember having seen a given advertisement for it to have an effect on purchasing.

The way advertising operates varies by product and market situation. Measuring advertising effectiveness should reflect this, and it requires interpretation and judgement.

A wide range of criteria can be used for monitoring effectiveness, ranging from awareness of advertising, through absorption of product messages, and other intermediate factors, to sales. This report comments on each. In general, the closer one can get to sales the better.

Magazines and television work in different ways

Magazine and television advertising work in different ways, and in assessing advertising effectiveness these differences should be taken into account. The measures developed for television are not necessarily appropriate for magazines.

Viewing of television commercials tends to be relatively passive, whereas exposure to magazines is more active. The process of scanning the pages means constantly taking decisions, with relatively high attention, and this active selection is maintained throughout the reading of the issue. Typically, all or almost all of the pages of a magazine are opened. Reading a magazine requires more mental engagement than viewing television.

Moreover, exposure to a magazine ad is under the reader’s control, whereas exposure to a TV commercial is not in the viewer’s control.

Television and magazine advertisements are stored in memory in different ways. A TV commercial tends to be held in the mind as a ‘story’. With magazine advertisements a higher proportion of memories are stored as information about the product rather than about the ad itself.

Consequently, as a criterion of the advertising efficiency of magazines, measuring the absorption of product messages is more relevant than ad awareness.

Unlike television, magazines offer repeat exposures to the advertising. The typical reader looks at an average page on more than two occasions.

Mixed-media campaigns

The differences in the way television and magazines work mean that they complement one another. In a mixed-media campaign each enriches what the other conveys. Magazine ads can communicate additional ideas, and also make the television advertising work harder.

When assessing the effectiveness of mixed-media campaigns special care is necessary if attempting to isolate the contributions of each medium.


Since the creative execution is a key factor, pre-testing is advisable - as an aid to skilled judgement.

Magazine ads are pre-tested to a lesser extent than television commercials. It is desirable that the proportion of magazine ads that are pre-tested should increase.

The methods used for pre-testing TV commercials are not necessarily appropriate for magazine advertisements.

Face to face interviews are generally the most fruitful means of contact with respondents, since the essence of pre-testing is to show consumers the test material. These can follow qualitative or quantitative approaches, or both. Otherwise the main factors to be agreed in choosing a pre-testing method for magazines are:
- The type of stimuli to use
- How the stimuli are exposed
- The criteria of effectiveness which are adopted

Case studies

Case studies of effective magazine advertising are presented in summarised form as a learning resource, within headings for:
- different criteria of effectiveness
- magazine-only and mixed-media strategies.
They represent a variety of data collection methods, and single- and multiple-brand examples.


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