Despite the much-hyped decline in print, Publicis Media’s Nick Langworthy looks to a medium that is trusted, effective, and that offers huge creative potential.

What if there were a brand safe platform that had robust JIC auditing?  What if that medium had transparent and detailed data based on sales and survey data?  What if that medium were highly visible, and where the ads had longevity?  What if that medium had ads which were actually welcomed by the consumer instead of seen as an annoyance? 

What if that medium had zero fraud, no grey area, where anyone could visibly audit the placement at any time, in any part of the country via a physical check or an online verification platform?  What if the medium allowed you to target so there was little wastage against a desired audience? 

What if that medium had a proven track record of delivery – delivering one of the best ROIs of any medium?  What if that medium had a low cost per thousand on par with all other channels? 

What if that medium were highly trusted, highly credible and timely?  What if the medium had a captive audience, whose eyeballs didn’t stray from what they were seeing? 

What if that medium was great for branding, great for response, great for conveying detailed information? What if that medium had a high dwell time so your ad had a greater chance of being seen? And what if all of these other what if’s had been researched, answered and proven. Proven by third party unbiased sources. 

Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? In fact, against a backdrop of rallying cries for increased transparency, such a channel would tick every box of concern that the modern marketer and agency strategist faces in today’s highly complex and fragmented advertising world.  

Of course, there is just such a brilliant medium available and it isn’t complex or complicated, so why are marketers failing to support the print industry?

Here are three main reasons:

We confuse quantity with quality

No doubt, print has suffered greatly in the past ten years as ad revenue was specifically taken from print and put into digital.  But it’s dangerous to fall into the perception trap that the CPM of digital (based on impressions) is cheaper or more cost effective than the CPT of print (based on circulation).

To date we have theorized that a print ad has been seen because people are paying money to read the printed content of a paper or magazine – a reasonable hypothesis. 

The launch of the new PAMCo survey allows us to investigate this broad, common sense statement with fact.  We now know how recent a reader of a magazine is, how often they read it, how long they read the title for, whether it is time well spent, whether they feel a close connection with the title, whether it offers something the reader can’t get elsewhere and that they trust what they read.

These engagement metrics highlight that print works; PAMCo also allows us to compare time spent reading print vs time spent on the digital equivalents.

Perception and lack of knowledge on what print delivers

The Radiocentre/Ebiquity research summed up this point brilliantly and is a must read. It confirmed what all print specialists already knew, that there is a problem with perception and a lack of knowledge about what print delivers.  All the negative headlines around declining circulations and titles closing have simply eclipsed the strengths of the medium.  The evidence concluded that print outperforms digital on nearly all of the metrics they studied: increasing campaign ROI, triggering a positive emotional response, increasing brand saliency, maximizing campaign reach, getting your ads noticed, guaranteeing a safe environment, delivering a short term sales response & having transparent 3rd party audience measurement. 

Our obsession with Millennials & Gen Z drives a bias towards digital

A digital strategy is key for future proofing brands that need to target the under 30s audience.  However, in the UK we have an ageing population; over 75% of adults are over the age of 30 and these people do read print titles. In fact, they love their print titles. 79% of adults over 30 read a print title (TGI 2018 – and bear in mind that the TGI survey doesn’t include thousands of specialist magazines and regional papers).  Circulations overall are down, but if your audience comprises anyone over 30, using the right combination of print titles is a brilliant way to optimise reach targets.

Of course, these reasons then create a vicious circle. Jump on the digital bandwagon, take ad revenue away from print (and TV for that matter), and print content and quality will of course be affected. The print market has historically had too many titles, all chasing the same readers. Titles have closed and will close, but let’s not let that fact confuse us as to the overall strengths of the channel itself. The strongest titles with the clearest strategies and the best consumer offering will survive and thrive, and will continue to offer a great canvas from which clients can grow their business. In the latest round of print magazine ABCs (released August 2018), Red, Vogue, Bella, Hello, Tatler, Gardener’s World, and a number of other titles, all delivered positive increases in actively purchased UK&Eire circulations

So what can we do about it?

Print has so much potential to be used in exciting, creative and dynamic ways. There are hundreds of examples of incredible ad placements in magazines and newspapers: video in print, lenticulars, audio, AR, sampling, and so many more.

The crux of it all is that there is a danger of print becoming a forgotten medium. It needs more industry specialists to shout about it in a positive way to (client) decision makers. Agencies need to take this data proactively to our clients rather than waiting for clients to come to us asking for it. Now is the time to act; now is the time for us to make the case that print provides an effective and transparent alternative.

Ultimately, if we let the trend continue our clients will lose. Let’s not get swept away by the negative hype and headlines. Let’s not ignore the strengths of the medium. Let’s give print the place on schedules it deserves.