About Magazine Advertising
Over 80% of the U.S. population reads magazines. On average, households purchase six different magazines. Readers typically spend more than 45 minutes per issue. And they can keep the magazine to refer back to it.
According to the Magazine Publishers Association, “The internet has not come at the expense of magazines.” Readership is actually increasing for a few publications, and adults between 18 and 34 are among the most dedicated readers. They equal or surpass their over-34 counterparts in issues read per month and time spent per issue. They also say, “Magazines drive web searches – with nearly double the effectiveness of the internet itself.”
Because there are hundreds of magazines, advertisers can precisely target the people who will be most interested in their product, service or company.
There are many different types of magazines:
- Trade magazines are publications for certain types of businesses, services and industries. Journal of Accountancy is an example of a trade journal for accountants. Some trade journals subscribers pay for; others are what’s called controlled circulation where the publisher recruits and screens people (generally based on job title and responsibilities) who then can receive the publication for free.
- Business magazines are subscribed to and available on newsstands. BusinessWeek is an example.
- Consumer magazines are sold to subscribers and available on newsstands.
- Specialty magazines are like consumer magazines but generally reach a smaller more niche target audience who are interested in a particular topic like scrapbooking, motorcycles, parenting young children, gardening, etc.
- City and state magazines, like Tucson Lifestyle or Alaska Magazine.
Most magazines are published monthly; some weekly.
Magazine ads are typically sold as a spread (2 pages next to each other), full page, half page and one-third page. Some magazines also sell smaller sized ads. Advertisers can buy space for 4-color, 2-color and black and white ads.
Some magazines will sell “advertorials.” These are either created by the advertiser, their agency or by the magazine. Advertorials are designed to look like editorial articles and are clearly marked “Advertising” or “Special Ad Section” on every page.
From our experience: Advertorials are generally a very poor investment because readers quickly identify that the editorial quality of the advertorial article is not the same editorial quality as other articles in the magazine. The tone of the advertorials is usually closer to that of a press release than of an objective news story.
Pros of advertising in magazines:
- Over 80% of the U.S. population reads magazines.
- Magazine readers tend to be higher educated and earn higher incomes.
- People who pay to receive or buy a magazine generally read it. And since they choose when to read it, they are more relaxed and focused. If an ad is selling a relevant product/service, they may read the ad too.
- Ads are part of the reader experience.
- Advertisers can target people very specifically based on: their hobbies and interests (cooking, hiking, golf, cars, etc.), age and life stages (for brides, new parents, women over 40, etc.), industry, job role (IT managers, orthodontists, CPA, etc.) and ethnic audiences including Asian Americans, blacks and Hispanics
- For products or services that are expensive with long sales cycles, magazine ads can help provide information your prospects need to put a product on a short list to consider and research more.
- The glossy print quality of magazines lets advertisers create ads with photographs and images that don’t work in newsprint.
- Magazines are often passed on from one reader to another, giving you actually more impressions than what you pay for.
- Ads in editorially relevant specialty magazines often work well for mail-order products that are not readily available at retail.
Weaknesses and cautions about magazine advertising:
- Longer time to get the ad created, produced and placed than other types of advertising since most magazines are monthly and require ads be sent to them 6-10 weeks before the ad actually appears to allow time for production, printing and distribution.
- Since ads need to be prepared and sent so far in advance, magazine advertising isn’t generally used for ads about prices and sales. It’s used more for brand ads to create awareness and preference or to remind people to buy a product or service.
- Be careful about controlled circulation publications where people are not paying to subscribe. The magazine is being sent to them but since they didn’t request it, they may not read it.
- The biggest downside of magazine advertising is the high cost for ads in the highest circulation publications like People, Sports Illustrated and Better Homes & Gardens.
Five decisions to get started with magazine advertising
- Is magazine advertising the best marketing tactic to use? (or would something else work better?)
- Do you want to create an ad campaign or just a magazine ad?
- Where do you want to advertise? (locally, regionally, nationally, online only)
- What’s your ad budget? And is that enough to do an effective job?
- What do you want to do yourself? Do you want to hire an agency or freelancers to do for you?
Decision #1: Is magazine advertising the best marketing tactic to use?
From our experience: Before you invest in any type of advertising, understand the alternatives to advertising. And understand the pros and cons for different Types of Advertising.
Decision #2: Ad campaign or an ad?
A campaign is advertising placed on different media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor billboards, online, etc.) that is unified by common themes, visuals and messages. Your campaign can be extended into all of your marketing.
Advertising is creative business, yes. But ultimately ads are sales pitches. Effective advertising should be like creating (or cloning) your best sales pitch or best salesperson. Sure, it helps if the ad is interesting and clever but the bottom line is: Did it get a sale or move the prospect closer to a sale?
There are two primary types of advertising:
Brand ads that aim to create, change or enhance the brand personality and positioning. These ads are like business development people who identify, educate and nurture prospects and existing customers. Most magazine ads are brand ads because of the long lead times it takes to send the ads into the publications.
Direct response ads that are like sales reps on quota. These ads are designed and measured by how well they convert prospects into buyers and how much revenue they generate. Most magazine ads don’t include prices and special offers because those change and magazines have such long lead times. If you want to create a direct response magazine ad, you’ll want to hire experts in direct response advertising (not brand advertising) to create these ads to benefit from their accumulated expertise from other clients in knowing what works and what doesn’t.
From our experience:
Most agencies and freelancers aren’t good at both brand and direct response advertising. They specialize. And they tend not to see eye-to-eye. Direct response ad experts consider brand advertising “fluffy” and brand ad experts consider direct response advertising transactional, unemotional and unimpressive. So, if you want to develop a campaign using both types of ads, you’ll need to act as the orchestra leader.
Developing an ad campaign takes more work and costs more upfront, but it pays back by establishing a stronger brand reputation for your product, service, company or non-profit organization. The theme and message from the ad campaign can be used in other sales and marketing materials to further integrate your marketing. Consistency reassures customers and prospects and makes a brand look like a leader. It’s what Starbucks and McDonald’s and most major advertisers do because it works. Small businesses and non-profits can do this too.
TV advertising is generally the “lead” for a campaign. It creates the overall message and theme that is then carried through to other marketing. TV advertising is the most memorable type of advertising. Magazine ads that are part of an overall campaign generally include a key visual element and the same tagline as a way to integrate with the overall campaign theme.
By using advertising in different types of media in your ad campaign, you’ll benefit from what’s called the “Media Multiplier Effect.” Major advertisers have learned when they use more than one type of media (generally TV and print), that the recall and communication of their message is greater than when they only use one type of media. Think of it this way: A sales rep who uses phone calls, sales meetings, email messages, printed letters and multi-media presentations will be more effective than someone who only uses one communication vehicle.
Campaigns need a “big idea” that will work across all forms of marketing and that takes time (and luck) to come up with. It’s better to run “one-off” ads (single, stand-alone ads) that are effective instead of trying to unify everything under a campaign theme that isn’t great. It’s the trade-off of integration versus effectiveness. Ideally, you’d like both.
Decision #3: Where do you want to advertise?
- in a town
- in a metro area
- in several metro areas
- in a state
- online only
- in particular vertical markets nationwide
Decision #4: What’s your magazine ad budget and is that enough to do an effective job?
There are two major costs for magazine advertising:
- Creating and producing the magazine ad concept/idea
- Costs for ad space (called “media” in the advertising world.) The cost to place the ad(s) should represent 80% or more of your budget.
Know this: A little advertising doesn’t work. Major advertisers who invest in expensive research tracking studies to understand the recall and impact of their advertising in market know that without adequate reach (how many people you reach) and frequency levels (how often you reach them) and enough media weight (dollars spent), the investment in advertising doesn’t work.
Traditional advertising (TV, radio, newspaper, print, billboards) is purchased based on:
- Reach is the number of unduplicated households or people exposed to a program, group of programs, or an advertiser’s schedule over a specific time period. Think of reach as the TV and radio equivalent of circulation for print.
- Frequency is the average number of times people have an opportunity to see/hear your ad message during that time period. Remember, this is opportunity to see, not a guarantee that people actually will see your ad.
The industry standard for minimum advertising effectiveness levels in consumer advertising is reaching at least 70% of the target audience at least three times during a four week period.
From our experience: Many small businesses don’t invest enough money in advertising to reach minimum levels and are frustrated that the advertising didn’t work.
If you can’t afford the “big ad plan,” then consider:
- Focusing your advertising to a smaller geographic area to be able to afford adequate reach/frequency levels.
- Narrowing the target audience.
- Identifying particular magazines that your target audience reads and becoming a regular ad sponsor. Develop a plan to reach those people with consistent frequency so your ads and messages are recalled by the readers of these magazines. Try to negotiate a contract with the magazine for ad space next to a popular column related to what you are selling.
- Using other marketing approaches like direct mail postcards, email marketing, PR or social media marketing.
Decision #5: What do you want to do yourself? What do you want to hire an agency or freelancers to do for you?
Know this: Different agencies have different “minimum budget” thresholds for clients. They generally don’t say what this is on their websites. If you have too small of a budget, an agency either won’t take you on as a client or you’ll be a small fish in a big pond and not get the help you expect.