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NY Times: Magazines Assert Their Power to Sell

Published: September 7, 2008

AS advertising spending in magazines continues to decline, publishers are intensifying their search for revenue from marketers.

An ad promoting the idea that readers will buy what is advertised.


Accounts, People, Miscellany (September 8, 2008)

The trade association for the industry, the Magazine Publishers of America, is scheduled to introduce an assertive campaign on Monday that promotes the power of its publications to move merchandise. The campaign, by a boutique agency in New York named Toy, carries the theme “Under the influence of magazines.”

The campaign comprises print and online advertisements as well as information on a Web site (magfacts.org). The goal is to show that advertising in magazines encourages consumers to consider buying products — a phenomenon known as purchase intent — and stimulates them to go online to shop or to learn more about items they might want to buy.

“What better time to tell the magazine story than when marketers are looking for results?” asked Nina B. Link, president and chief executive at the association in New York.

Because the economy “is no laughing matter,” she added, advertisers and agencies are more likely to consider appeals to their economic well-being — if backed by facts.

The campaign offers “third-party, independent research” on the power of magazine advertising, Ms. Link said, “none of it commissioned or paid for by us.”

The research covers categories like packaged goods, which already have large budgets for magazine ads, as well as categories like automobiles, whose makers have slashed spending on magazine ads because of their economic woes.

In the first quarter of 2008, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, an affiliate of the association, the number of magazine ad pages dropped off 6.4 percent compared with the same period of 2007, then fell 8.2 percent in the second quarter compared with the second quarter of last year.

The combined decline for the first half was 7.4 percent from the same period of 2007.

Of course, the tumult in the stock and real estate markets is affecting other media as well. Ad revenue for newspapers, for instance, is falling much faster than that of magazines, and even the rate of growth of online advertising has been slowing.

But that is not much consolation for the employees of magazines like Blueprint, Golf for Women, Home, House & Garden, Quick & Simple and Stuff, which were all recently closed or announced plans to stop publishing.

“We feel magazines are holding their own, relative to where the economy is,” Ms. Link said. “Many categories that are down — home, apparel, auto — are affected by the economy.”

Data compiled by the association, based on figures from TNS Media Intelligence, indicates that consumer magazines have increased their share of total ad spending, to 18.4 percent in 2007 from 16.5 percent in 2004.

One reason, the association believes, is a decision in 2005 to form the Magazine Marketing Coalition, which is sponsoring a three-year effort to make a case for buying ad pages in magazines.

The first such campaign, created by the New York office of Fallon Worldwide, part of the Publicis Groupe, sought to dispel qualms about the place of magazines in a digital world. The ads were designed to look like the covers of magazines published in 2105, sending a message that the medium has a future.

After Fallon closed its New York office, the association turned in 2006 to Mullen, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies based in Wenham, Mass., for a campaign that celebrated magazines because they engage readers with “ideas that live beyond the page.”

That idea was expressed in a novel manner: The ads were designed as if they had been ripped or torn from the magazines in which they appeared.

After two years of that campaign, the association turned to Toy, whose founding partners had led the Fallon New York office before it closed.

“We wanted to work with a New York agency,” Ms. Link said, “and we’re working again with this team we loved before.”

The team is composed of Anne Bologna, chief executive at Toy, and Ari Merkin, chief creative officer. They chose to express the theme of “Under the influence of magazines” in a humorous fashion by showing the exaggerated consequences of what could happen when consumers act on magazine ads.

In one ad, a woman is surrounded by enough cartons of Häagen-Dazs ice cream to stock a supermarket freezer case. She has a look on her face suggesting, to paraphrase a line from an old commercial for Alka-Seltzer, that she can’t believe she bought the whole thing.

The text reads: “Magazine ads. No. 1 in driving purchase intent of packaged goods. See why at magfacts.org.”

Mr. Merkin said he would describe the tongue-in-cheek look of the campaign as “the morning-after effect: ‘What did I do last night?’ ”

“It’s done to make the point that magazines have a powerful influence on people,” he added.

The campaign is to appear in trade publications like Advertising Age, Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek as well as on Web sites that include adage.com, adforum.com, adweek.com, brandweek.com, nytimes.com and wsj.com. The budget for the rest of the year is estimated at more than $1 million.

The campaign will also run in ad pages to be donated by magazines that are members of the association.

To underline the power of magazine ads, Ms. Bologna said, the three brands featured in the first stage of the campaign — Adidas footwear; Häagen-Dazs, owned by Nestlé; and Mini Cooper, part of BMW — “are all winners of Kelly Awards.”

Those awards are presented annually by the association to campaigns deemed to demonstrate how creativity can bolster the effectiveness of magazine ads.


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