Soap Opera Digest, the 500,000-circ window into the soap opera industry, has taken an active role in closing the deal between the magazine’s readers and its advertisers. Through a partnership with Wal-Mart, now in its second year, publisher Linda Vaughan points to UPC scan data that reveals participating advertisers got a 22 percent nationwide lift in product sales.
The program, called “Shop Like a Soap Star,” is essentially an integrated merchandising program supported by in-store sponsor signage, product demonstrations, sampling, and marketing in print and online. Vaughan notes an emphasis on keeping the program unique. “It’s very important that when we go to advertisers and present marketing programs, they are unique to what our capabilities are,” she says. “This is not generic. Our niche is to cover one type of entertainment. The programs always have to revolve around soap operas. Nothing draws crowds like soap stars.”
The September issue will have a 22-page labeled advertising section devoted to soap star interviews, the products they like to buy and display advertising for participating vendors. Newsstand copies distributed in Wal-Mart locations will have an additional gatefold off cover two promoting the program.
Vaughan says that last year’s program resulted in a 22 percent lift in product sales for participating advertisers. Customers were actually buying the product. The data was pulled from UPC scans. “We get the data from Wal-Mart and we compare the case sales a week before and a week after [the program], then go back to the advertisers to show the increase in case purchases,” she says.
Seven advertisers participated in last year’s program. Ten will participate this year and Vaughan has doubled the number of Wal-Marts to 100. Vaughan notes that the magazine’s readership tests 80 percent higher than the national average in trips to Wal-Mart, which originally helped lock in the partnership deal with the very selective discount chain.
For the second go-around this year, Vaughan boosted online marketing on the magazine’s Web site, which received five million page views in July. Vaughan declines to reveal revenues or sponsorship pricing but says that she would have dumped the program if it wasn’t profitable out of the gate last year. This year she’s expecting a 30 percent increase in the profits for the program.