A brave new world of creative opportunity for print advertisers

Traditional print advertising no longer meets the needs of the on-demand economy – brand and media owners must wake up to the opportunities provided by brand-integrated editorial feature content. By James Hayr

There are certain values I hold dear, ingrained in me by constant repetition from my parents as they tried – and it took a lot of trying – to turn me from a spiteful young teenager into a respectful pillar of the community. “Don’t rush your food”, “What’s the magic word?”, “Wait your turn” – I can still hear them now, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Traditional sentiments that make one mindful of others and slightly less obsessed with the “What’s in it for me?” state of things. Hopefully their persistence paid off/ you’ll have to ask the wife.

I thought traditional values were alive and well in the magazine business too. For years, there was a natural order of things and everyone who entered the industry was aware of the family values. Glossies were monthlies, so too men’s magazines, emblazoned with the latest glamorous Hollywood star. Clients and their agencies called the advertising shots and media owners danced to their tune. Editors produced editorial, advertisers produced advertising copy. The readers knew where they stood. Anyone fancy lunch?

So what the hell is going on now? The big talking point in the men’s market is the Nuts versus Zoo battle of the weeklies. Meanwhile, Heat and Closer have taken the market as a whole by storm. The Mail on Sunday has rolled out You as a weekly standalone that readers can actually buy (MW December 1, 2005). That’s not to say the monthlies are out of the picture, far from it. It just means their editorial appeal needs to evolve to complement rather than compete with the weeklies.

Bizarrely, the main reason for this is television. In the good old days of terrestrial-only TV, celebrity had its own ceiling. With just four channels, there was only so much air-time to accommodate the number of orange-faced presenters and performers we welcomed into our living rooms.

Something for everyone

Weather girls were as far as celebrity banality went. Ulrika rocked. Now, however, with hundreds of channels clamouring for our attention 24 hours a day, the celebrity conveyor-belt has gone into over-drive. Factor in reality TV shows and the EU Celebrity Mountain is piled high. And boy, are we paying for it. At the worst end of the sector, supermarket check-out girls now fill the weeklies’ pages. People with an IQ lower than their Jimmy Choo size have an opinion and a platform on which to express it.

We are turning into an on-demand economy. No one wants to wait for anything any more. They want things faster, better, newer, fresher – and not just online. The “use by” date on information is shortening all the time. And this also applies to what we buy. Fashion houses used to refresh their collections by the season, now it’s by the month or even the week. If it’s not a new line, it’s old hat and that just isn’t good enough any more for brand-hungry consumers.

Interestingly, recent research from EMAPInsight (the research arm of EMAP Advertising) shows that this phenomenon is now a factor in marketing. The tried-and-trusted seems not to be as effective as it once was. The research sought to establish how consumers react to traditional print advertising compared to what’s now known as creative media – advertorials and brand-integrated editorial features.

Tailoring to fit

What now seems to engage readers isn’t one size fits all blanket advertising, but rather, tailored messages woven into the fabric of
the editorial proposition. Typically, this doesn’t come cheap, but these days it’s not about price but the value returned, and there’s plenty of robust empirical data to prove that this style of marketing punches well above its weight.

When packaged together with a well-planned above-the-line media campaign, the results can be truly amazing. And it’s the modern media owner who has the understanding of, and access to, these consumers, as well as the internal creative resource to help a marketer communicate with them.

What it does mean, however, is that you have to trust them enough, be brave and, temporarily at least, hand over the brand. It’s no good going to a media owner and telling them that you have the ideal editorial solution to convince their readership why they should be smothering themselves in a particular brand of shower cream.

If you’ve ever met an editor you’ll know the risks in advising him or her how to communicate with the target audience. Editors are sensitive souls and don’t take kindly to unsolicited advice, no matter how well intended. At best, you’ll get the well-practised corporate smile through gritted teeth, at worst you’re reaching for the ice pack.

A competitive tool

That’s where the creative divisions within media owners come into their own. They understand brand marketing, they’re close to their brands’ audiences and they’re well practised in getting the editor on side to support an integrated media idea to shift anything, from
confectionery to that brand of shower cream. Some are better at it than others, but given the column inches in the advertising trade
press given over to this subject, it’s an area that media owners are now exploiting as a competitive tool in much the same way as they use audience reach information.

This means that media owners are in a totally different place to where they were five years ago – in terms of what they offer clients and their agencies – and they have to evolve accordingly. The recent creation of EMAP2 is a case in point. This new in-house creative shop employs over 80 people to devise, create and deliver bespoke integrated media campaigns for clients right across the brand spectrum.

The future’s bright

At their disposal are audience research, media insight, brand expertise, art directors, copywriters, creative directors, strategists and project management. Ten years ago, who would have bet on this being a key part of the media-owner make-up? The future’s bright and it doesn’t necessarily have to be orange.

To any brand manager new to the business, this must make disturbing reading. The rulebook has been ripped up and there’s a new order to brand marketing. Well, not quite; but times certainly are a-changing. The consumer has always been king, but as with any monarch the rules change by succession. These days we should look to “Little Britain” rather than Great Britain for our sovereign media guidance. As Andy would say: “Want that one.” And who are we to argue?

⢠Advertorials generate higher brand awareness than display advertising – those who saw advertorials had a 27% higher brand awareness than those who saw display

⢠Advertorials are more effective at influencing buying behaviour – purchase consideration rose by 11 percentage points more among those who saw advertorials than those who saw display ads

⢠Advertorials are more effective at changing brand perceptions than display advertising

⢠Advertorials are more likely to be read than display ads – readers were 30% more likely to stop and read them than display

⢠Readers’ perceptions of advertorials are positive, particularly among those exposed to them

⢠Advertorials are high reward but high risk – it’s easy to get them very wrong

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