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Global evidence shows continued ROI for magazine media

New evidence from around the world is making it increasingly difficult to ignore that magazines continue to punch above its weight in advertising effectiveness says Research Consultant Marius Cloete. 

New US study adds weight to magazine effectiveness

2016 has proven to be an eventful and surprising year to date, not least with recent political events and ensuing ‘doom and gloom’ predictions. Magazines, who have themselves been buffeted by negative headlines, are increasingly proving their growing audiences and value amidst turbulent times on both sides of the Atlantic.

Initiatives like Magazine Media 360, first published in the US by the MPA, has laid rest to the notion that magazine media is in decline by showcasing the strong 360 degree audience growth that magazine media is enjoying across different platforms with new digital audiences easily offsetting declines in print.

More importantly, evidence is mounting that whether your goal is to build strong and lasting brands in the longer term or to increase your product’s sales in the near term, magazines in printed format continue to be an essential part of the media mix to achieve either goals.

This has been brilliantly illustrated by a new piece of cross-industry attribution research released by Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS) at the Advertising Research Foundation's Audience Measurement 2016 conference in June, which shows that magazines deliver the highest overall return on advertising spend based on actual household purchase behaviour.

Below we explore three key pieces of research from the past year which showcase the outstanding and essential contribution print magazines make to campaigns. 

Long-term brand building

Magnetic released Why being different still makes a difference in May 2016, a new study which explores how advertisers can use brand equity to ensure sales success and future growth.

The work confirms that salience, or top-of-mind awareness, acts as a critical growth lever, but it also shows that there are risks involved for brands which only focus on salience. Ultimately it if all brands focus solely on salience, the marketing environment becomes akin to a busy bazaar where traders simply compete for attention by seeing who can shout the loudest. They may be able to get more attention in this way, but it ignores the opportunity to seduce the potential’s customer senses by having a meaningful conversation that helps the customer understand why a certain product meets their needs, what makes it more desirable than others and, of course, engage in a good old haggle over price.   

Just like the bazaar trader, the brand manager needs to seduce the consumer once you have their attention by ensuring that a brand is perceived as meaningful (conveying the extent to which a product will satisfy the needs of the consumer) and different (conveying what makes its more desirable than competitors) are critical drivers of success and future growth. Brands that perform well across both the meaningful and different dimensions not only enjoys a higher price premium and repeat purchase, but can supercharge their future sales growth by up to 2.5 times in comparisons to brands that focus more on achieving salience alone.

Magnetic’s work with Millward Brown highlights the role that different media play in this process. The results show the strong impact that magazines have on consumers in stimulating an advertising response across all three of the required dimensions and illustrates that magazines are by far the strongest driver of differentiation. Even when reach is brought into the equation magazines emerge as the most cost-efficient medium to drive meaningful difference.

A number of new attribution studies also show that magazines’ contribution to campaigns extend beyond brand building and can yield a tangible and impressive impact on sales for advertisers.

Magazines drive near term sales - guaranteed!

Meredith Corporation has taken a leading role using attribution modelling to instil confidence amongst advertisers that use magazines and have gone an extra step by offering a guarantee for the sales uplift the magazines can generate. The Meredith Sales Guarantee assures advertisers that their campaign investment in magazines will generate incremental sales which exceed their investment or else advertisers are furnished with a rebate in cash or advertising space. Performance is tracked against actual household spending behaviour using two identically matched test and control groups where the only variable is their exposure to the campaign in magazines.

To date more than 53 advertiser campaigns have taken up the Meredith Sales Guarantee and every single one has shown a positive return on advertising spend by providing an uplift in product sales  ranging from 2% to 47% depending on the product category.

The project has been so successful that it has been adopted by the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) as an industry-wide initiative in the US.

Magazines deliver the highest return on advertising spend

The new NCS study mentioned earlier, Yes, Advertising Works expands on the work already done by Meredith and the MPA, and provides advertisers with a wider set of benchmarks across multiple channels. Results showed that magazines provide the highest overall return on advertising spend based on data from 1,400 campaigns covering 450 FMCG brands.  

The study took into account many factors which influence sales including size of brand, brand equity and purchase frequency amongst others. It also looked at the results expressed across different metrics that advertisers are likely to consider.

Firstly it looked at Return on Advertising Spend (RoAS) which takes into account the cost of media and calculates how much incremental sales is generated by each dollar invested. Magazines showed the highest overall RoAS of $3.94.

Secondly it looked at incremental sales per exposed household. Here the objective is to see the contribution each channel makes in sales productivity - or increasing spend levels per household - but without taking cost of media into account. With its superior reach Linear TV advertising drives the highest incremental sales per exposed household at $0.33. This is followed by magazines, digital video and mobile, which are separated by only three cents.

Outcomes not inputs

Magazine media, and indeed the entire media industry, have seen explosive growth across multiple platforms which are instantly measurable. We do, however, need to take care that we don’t get lost in a newfound ability to provide such metrics. Both media and advertisers need to keep firmly focussed on the outcomes that campaigns deliver and it’s encouraging to see an increasing pool of effectiveness evidence reflecting magazines’ ability to do just that.