Companies advertise for many reasons. To create or reinforce a favorable impression of their brand, for instance. But mainly they advertise to sell products. Associating advertising with sales is problematic, however. How does the advertiser really know whether an ad influenced a purchase? And can new ad vehicles like tablets be more effective?
That need for advertising accountability resulted in magazine publisher Meredith Corp. launching its Engagement Dividend program, which guarantees that the advertisements in its print magazines will boost the advertiser's sales. The program will compare the buying behavior of a group of panelists who read the magazines with a complementary group that didn't to prove that sales increased as a result of the ads. Kimberly-Clark Corp. said this week that it will be the first “premier advertising partner.”
Meanwhile, Affinity, a marketing and media research company specializing in advertising effectiveness and audience measurement, has been polling reader response to print and digital ads and comparing the effectiveness of tablet advertising vs. print.
"We've measured close to 4,000 digital ads, so we're at the point where we're beginning to develop a normative database: what is the average recall score or action score. We can put them side by side with our print numbers," said Tom Robinson, managing director at Affinity.
The company concluded that compared head to head, the net action scores, which measure effectiveness in terms of response to the ad, are much higher in iPad magazines than in the printed versions.
Tablet ads outpacing traditional print versions
"The ads that appear in iPads and digital tablets seem to be outpacing and outperforming the traditional printed versions of the ads," said Robinson. "The recall is higher but the action scores--to make a purchase, go to a link, click to download an app--are much higher due to the interactivity of the tablet environment," he said. "Digital obviously offers more opportunities to respond with the interactivity, the links built in, the videos, and that is directly reflected in the fact that we're getting higher reader ad effectiveness scores on the digital side," Robinson said.
Affinity also tracks the performance of different types of ads. "It always comes back to the creative," Robinson said. "Ads with 360-degree views (where the reader rotates the tablet to get different views of a car, for example) seem to be pacing at a higher rate of recall for all digital ads, which is also outpacing all print ads. Videos and photo galleries also do well on the action questions we ask," he said.
"The question is, is this a honeymoon effect or is this a trend over time. As tablets become mainstream, will those recall and action scores continue to skew higher?" he said.
Tablets are still far from mainstream, but their influence is growing quickly. Affinity's Fall American Magazine Study reported that the number of Americans accessing magazine-branded content and advertising through smartphones, ereaders, tablets and other mobile devices was up 6.2% from the spring report, to 35 million consumers. Robinson said tablets account for most of that growth.
Publishers have made tablets part of their advertising mix
Tablets have become an integral part of publishers' advertising mix, said Robinson. "Eighty-five percent of all conversations and meetings with magazine people are no longer just about the printed page. Every publisher is talking a package. Publishers are not trying to pit one platform against the other. They're trying to sell a cross-platform solution to an agency. They need to be able to document the reach from the audience perspective and the accountability from an ad effectiveness perspective," he said.
To be successful, magazines will have to adapt to consumers' evolving reading habits.
"The reality is that the consumer has changed and the way that the consumer interacts with media has changed," said Robinson. "The magazines that will flourish and be successful down the road are obviously the ones that are delivering their content and advertising on multiple platforms. The ability to be fast and flexible enough to keep pace with technology is going to define the winners and the losers in the magazine space," he added. "Accountability is the theme of the day for sure."