May 02, 2017

Advertising Chart: Why customers ignore some newspaper and magazine ads


Print ads in newspapers and magazines are the most trusted advertising channel when consumers want to make a purchase decision, according to MarketingSherpa research.

So, print can be a valuable tool in the marketing toolbox, even for digital marketers since they can use it to drive consumers to an online conversion objective.

Read on to discover what pitfalls you can avoid to create print ads that consumers won’t ignore.

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

A few weeks ago, I was on stage at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 interviewing Jonathan Levey, Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Flexjet, about his effort to create a mobile app that drove a 488% increase in leads.

While we were discussing one of the newer marketing channels — a mobile app — he mentioned one of the oldest channels — print advertising — as part of his marketing mix to drive mobile app adoption. While it was hard for his team to definitively attribute app installs or ROI to print advertising, there was a lift in site visits and installs after the ads ran in Robb Report and Jetset Magazine.

So, whether you work for a traditional brick-and-mortar or B2B company engaged heavily in print advertising or work for a more digital-oriented brand interested in driving online or mobile behavior, our latest research might be helpful to you.

To help you improve your print advertising, we asked 2,400 consumers, “Why do you ignore print advertising in magazines and newspapers from companies? Select all that apply. “

To see 28 more charts from the study, download the free report.

As with other channels, clutter is a major factor…

The top reason consumers said they ignore print ads is because they see print ads too frequently. This is not unique to print advertising, of course. The top reason consumers unsubscribe from email is because they get too many emails in general.

If one in five Americans see print ads too frequently, how can you to stick out from the clutter? Tied for the second most frequently chosen reason for ignoring print ads was that they were not relevant, interesting, or customers didn’t have time to read them (according to 18% of Americans).

Ignoring print ads (sometimes) might not seem as bad as it sounds

At first glance, this news could be disconcerting, especially for a digital marketer who is a relative novice at using print. But perhaps you shouldn’t think of print the same way you think of digital.

As my old boss told me when I started out as an agency copywriter working on newspaper ads, “There’s a refrigerator ad on page three of the newspaper. And you ignore it every day. However, the day your refrigerator breaks, you read every word of that ad.”

In other words, while digital offers the benefit of targeting and measurement to use behavioral queues like search terms or social media activity, if you’re only getting engagement and not achieving your ultimate metric from these ads (usually, a purchase), how much does that matter?

With print, if customers ignore your ad every day until they’re ready to make a purchase, and then it influences a purchase decision, that lack of “engagement” may not be as important. After all, we also discovered that print ads in newspapers and magazines were the most trusted advertising channel when consumers were making a purchase decision.

To hear it in consumers’ own words, one survey respondent described it this way when asked about ignoring ads — “I wouldn't say I ignore them completely. I notice them, but if they aren't applicable to something I need at the moment, I just move on.”

Or this may just be an excuse

To take the flip side of the issue, all of the above could just be a convenient excuse. Even if customers aren’t ready to purchase, print ads should be interesting and relevant enough to customers to stick out from all the other noise.

In other words, if you’re investing in a print ad, you should hope to see some measurable response to know you’re getting a return on investment (in addition to the branding and mindshare increases that  are much harder to track). So, the print ad should focus on keeping customers engaged with your brand until they are ready to purchase.

In that case, find proxy actions the customer can take short of purchase — using a custom URL for each ad so you can track response. Some example actions:

  • Going to your website to enter a sweepstakes or contest
  • Promoting a helpful piece of digital (or print) content they can sign up to receive
  • Downloading your app (like the Flexjet example in the beginning of this article)
  • Coupons and coupon codes (As one respondent noted, “I really like to read ads in print, such as in newspapers. Coupons are great for advertising products!”)

It’s not enough that your app or content is free. You should treat the proxy action as a product in itself, with a related but standalone value proposition from your product that must have its own appeal.

As one customer responded when asked about why they ignore prints ads, “I don't! I usually do read ads in magazines if they appeal to me.”

Intrinsic advantages of print ads

Digital marketers are often focused on PPC, display and social media ads and don’t think about the power and possibility of print. While digital marketers often readily notice the drawback of print — more difficult to track and run experiments, not as timely, cost (although this may vary), more difficult to target and segment — print does have its advantages for digital marketers as well:

  • You stick out from the crowd — Even though consumers mentioned the frequency of print ads, there is far more clutter in digital marketing. Print, by its very nature, will always have a limited inventory while digital can be endless. As one survey respondent said, “Print will always get my attention more than tech.
  • There is a halo effect for your brand — It seems that every week there is a new report of a major brand stopping digital advertising with a certain site, agency or ad network after discovering the controversial, offensive, fake or low-quality content that its ads were promoted alongside. Due to the complexities of digital ad buying, many brands may have no idea what their media buy is supporting.

Print ads tend to run alongside much more respected content.

In addition, since there are so many fly-by-night products promoted online and since consumers perceive print ads to be more respected, print advertisers can also be perceived by consumers as more established and reliable companies than competitors who solely advertise through digital

  • Print ads can’t be blocked — According to recent reports, even Google is considering creating an ad blocking feature in Chrome.
  • No privacy concern — As one consumer responded in the survey, “Print ads only. DO NOT TRACK ME.”

You might also like

Beyond Advertising: Creating Value Through all Email and Mobile Touchpoints – webinar on May 3, 2017, 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM EDT with Catharine Hays, founding executive director, Wharton Future of Advertising Program

Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases

Driving Traffic from Print to Web: 50% increase in website traffic in six months

Advertising Chart: The types of ads consumers dislike the most (and the least)

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