Selling Up or Selling Out? Print Advertising in a Rich Media Era
As web advertising techniques on Spanish-language websites become increasingly sophisticated, quantifiable and targeted, there is a lot of internal debate within the Hispanic print industry over how to remain a desirable outlet for advertisers. As many Hispanic publications are still not verifiably audited, and readers-per-copy figures can be murky, the inclination to advertise digitally is an understandable one, and it is a move that more advertisers are making. The question is: What are print properties doing to retain market share, and are they compromising themselves in the process?
While non-print media can reach consumers in ways that print cannot, there are some advertising methods that can not be implemented across digital and broadcast platforms. Perhaps the most concrete example would be the ubiquitous scented-strips that many fragrance companies include as a major part of their ad-campaigns. Francisco Romero, Publisher and Editorial Director of the Hispanic men’s magazine, Hombre, says “Fragrance advertisers that include scent strips in their ads work well with us. It may not be new, but it’s not as common in Latin publications as it is in the mainstream media.” Other examples of advertisers using Hispanic print in non-traditional ways include AOL including software discs in the magazine to complement their extensive direct mail efforts. Harley Davidson sometimes includes reply cards in Hombre to encourage immediate response.
Cesar Pizarro, business manager at El Nuevo Herald, says another option is using unique ad-shapes that grab the reader’s attention, such as L-shaped ads or fireplace ads: “We did one with the Florida Marlins that worked quite well. Instead of occupying the full double truck, the advertisement is tapered – surrounded by editorial. The effect is an ad that looks distinctive, and thereby garners more attention.”
While these aforementioned methods have proven effective, Carsten Moser, President and CEO of Gruner and Jahr Espana, notes that advertisers are demanding new strategies to reach audiences through print –moving beyond the traditional full-page ad, and increasingly integrating the advertising into the editorial. One common technique is placing advertising images within the text in an invasive fashion, thereby coercing the reader to interact with the messaging.
Content creation – or advertorial content - is another common technique, where an advertiser creates editorial content surrounding its brand, like a vodka company proffering instructions on how to make the perfect martini, or Nike doing a piece on the history of soccer, thus tying the brands to their contextual spaces. Moser stated that while these are useful ways of connecting with readers, publishers must be wary of what he termed “advertising pollution” within the pages of the magazine. To avoid such contamination he stressed the importance of limiting this type of content, and instead focusing on quality editorial.
Miguel Ortiz Monasterio, president of Mexico’s Grupo Médios, agrees with Moser that agencies are increasingly demanding product placement and other forms of invasive advertising in print, but argues that, “magazines should resist such overtures in the interest of maintaining the confidence of their readers. In my view, product placement is a solution to a problem that the print medium does not have – namely ‘zapping,’ or channel surfing.”
Hombre’s Francisco Romeo sees it differently: “At Hombre we offer it as an advertising option or as added value for long term clients. For example Absolut Vodka is a regular advertiser with us and when they launch a new flavor we often feature creative recipes for exotic drinks. It's a win-win-win situation for the client, the publication and the reader.”
Gruner and Jahr’s Carsten Moser says that while he agrees that maintaining the trust of a magazine’s readers is paramount, “the print industry should not reject innovative advertising strategies when competing mediums such as broadcast and digital are making such strides in offering advertisers new marketing approaches.” To do so, he argued would estrange advertisers from print media, an ill-advised move when many advertisers are already flocking online. “Print should embrace new and interesting ways of connecting advertisers with their markets, or risk advertiser attrition,” he concludes.
A Closer bond?
Hombre’s Romeo goes even further by saying that, far from merely appeasing advertiser demands, “These options fortify the importance of print advertising. This sort of content greatly complements regular advertising. Readers can experience a closer bond with the advertiser by seeing how said advertiser is integrated into a particular lifestyle.” As an example, Romeo points to a newly-launched real estate website that advertised in Hombre whose founders were subsequently featured in their “Exito (Success)” column, proffering advice on real estate investing.
One new strategy being employed is as a springboard to market to consumers digitally on their mobile phones by utilizing what are known as short codes: “A short code is a five or six digit number that a consumer texts a message to in order to start engaging with a brand, says James Briggs, Co-founder and CEO of L.A.-based Briabe Media, a mobile marketing agency. “One innovative new print advertising approach that many advertisers are using is posting a call to action ad in a newspaper or magazine, where the consumer is instructed to dial the short code to a specific number. When the consumer enters a short code, they are agreeing to receive adverising over their mobile phone,” says Briggs. When asked if consumers might feel taken advantage of once they start receiving marketing on their phones (for which they have to pay), Briggs says no. “All mobile marketing is opt-in only, so the consumers should know what they are signing up for before doing so.”
While it is certainly true that as Hispanic digital media becomes more advanced in its ad-delivery techniques and measurability, print media must adjust and optimize its own effectiveness with new ad-delivery strategies, the question “How far is too far?” remains on the tongue of many publishers who are wary of betraying reader trust.
While some marketers and publishers see advertorial content and opt-in advertising as being of service to the consumer, many consumers view these approaches as extraneous at best, and deceptive and misleading at worst. And so the debate rages quietly on in newsrooms nationwide, as Hispanic print struggles to maintain and grow its share of increasingly fragmented advertising budgets, while trying to maintain and grow its increasingly fragmented audiences.
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