The marketing mix has changed over the last few years, with online advertising, in particular, growing at an impressive rate. No news there. However, as a result, magazines have receded into a new position as just one;and no less important;component of a larger landscape of marketing options for advertisers: Events, digital, print, TV, radio and more.
A recent report by Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a private equity and mezzanine capital fund management company, concludes that total spending on media and communications is expected to rise 7.2 percent in 2006 to $961.9 billion, following last year’s increase of 6.3 percent. A key finding of that study, however, notes that standard print advertising growth is being suppressed by increasing marketing options. But publishers who adjust their advertising and sponsorship opportunities accordingly can still remain in the game.
As agencies zero in on the magazine’s share of the media plan, the exercise becomes more of a process of elimination as the planner determines which titles are the most appropriate vehicles for the message. As we examine here how that process unfolds, sales executives take note: Understand that once that process begins, your chances of influencing the outcome have largely vanished. Instead, bring your resources to bear before the planning begins.
The Media Plan
“Media planning is media planning,” says Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president and director of print strategy at New York-based ad agency TargetCast tcm. “It doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference if you’re planning for print or for broadcast or Internet. The process and the information that a planner needs to go through is kind of the same.”
Yet once the appropriate mix of allocations is determined by the agency’s client, and assuming magazines have made the cut as part of the allocation mix, the rubber really hits the road. “From there, that’s where the print planning process changes, and rather than call it a planning process it becomes a magazine selection process,” says Garfinkle.
Some clients know what they want up front, landing at the agency with a budget and a good idea of what kind of pages they want to run and what titles to run them in. Others require more in-depth research from the agency.
Using syndicated research, a print planner will begin running “cranks” to hone in on magazine titles not just by audience, but by the coverage and composition of that audience. Coverage represents the percentage of a magazine’s reach into a specific population set. For example, a title might say that 25 percent of its one million readers are women age 25-34 (composition);a key demographic for the advertiser. From there, the planner calculates the percentage those 250,000 readers are of the entire universe of women age 25-34. “So it’s x-percent of the magazine’s audience and it’s x-percent of the universe,” says Garfinkle.
Using these figures, the planner then examines CPMs to determine cost and get closer to a consideration set. “What are the coverage numbers and how do they compare to each other relative to a CPM?” says Garfinkle.
Circulation trends for each of the titles under consideration are examined closely, as is the ad/edit ratio. “If I am a cosmetic advertiser I would want to know that that magazine supports my world editorially,” says Garfinkle, who adds that Halls report data is used to determine the editorial make-up of a title according to topic: 25 percent of the editorial is fashion, 32 percent is beauty, and 43 percent of the editorial is relationships, for example. “I want to know that editorial talks to the product that I’m advertising,” she says. “It’s one of the tools that we use to evaluate magazines. Nobody’s going to fall on a sword over any of this. But I want to make sure it’s a compatible editorial environment.”
Editorial trends are examined, too. “Has the magazine been doing anything to change how it reports and what it reports,” asks Garfinkle. “Has it gone more lifestyle from beauty and fashion? Has it talked more about overseas travel than domestic travel? Any shifts in the editorial process;a new editor comes on board and you’re always worried that they’re going to change something.”
From there the “dreaded” RFP process gets underway. In the meantime, the creative, if needed, has already been crafted. “Generally, as the planners are starting to do their preliminary work, the client is also working with creatives. By the time they get to putting the media plan together, they know what creative they’re going to use,” says Garfinkle.
At this point, however, if a salesperson has yet to make contact with either the agency or the client, they shouldn’t bother. “If you knew anything about the RFP process, you would understand why we can’t see you when we’re in planning, and you would know that the time to see the agency or the time to meet with the client is way before the planning process starts,” says Garfinkle. “Once the planning process starts it really is too late.”
RFP: A Nail in the Coffin
“We like to say that by the time you get the RFP, you’re dead,” says Andy Hersam, vice president and publisher of Runner’s World. “If that’s all you’ve got it’s just down to pricing and you’ve commoditized yourself.”
What’s important, says Hersam, is to go from vendor to partner. That means getting in front of the agency as often as you can. Hersam notes that his time is divided 50-50 between agencies and meeting with clients directly. The general rep business, however, is closer to 90 percent agency.
And despite all the syndicated research out there that agencies use to light up a title, there’s still a story for the sales rep to tell. “The key part of that is to know as much, if not more, about their client’s business than the agency might. Get your hands on as much information as you can so that you can create as comprehensive a solution as possible. Do your recon to demonstrate you truly are a partner. They need to know you as a trusted advisor,” says Hersam.
“The end goal is removing all the guesswork,” he adds, “instead of second-guessing what the agency and the client are thinking. Then all you’re doing is throwing darts.”
The bigger deals, says Hersam, will typically involve an agency, all the more incentive to get your story told. “The great trinity is you, the client, and the agency working together for the client. That’s a beautiful thing. There’s nothing better than being in the room with the agency and the client. They’ve gotten to the point where they’re trusting you to be transparent with their goals.”
Once rate negotiations get underway, the words “added value” still play a big role, involving freebies from buy-five-pages-get-a-one-third-free to a comped BRC card, sponsored golf outings, even elaborate parties for the client’s sales team.
Media Spending and the Publisher’s Role
As for the range of media allocations, Garfinkle is hesitant to pin down a specific pattern, with a wide variety of priorities driving where the spending is routed. Rather, funds are shifted from one budget to another as needed. “The one thing I think we’re all certain of is that for the most part budgets are not growing. So you’re starting to see little shifts. Money is being shifted into online as it’s growing. I’m not sure where it’s coming from. Whether people are taking a little bit from all of their budgets and moving it there. I don’t think it’s coming from any one particular place,” she says.
What’s important, adds Hersam, is to make sure all bases are covered. “It’s coming in with a 360-degree plan on how to use your brand;online, events, special units in the magazine. Maximize your brand in the most effective way. Magazines aren’t about eyeballs and you have to bring that to life. [Readers] have an emotional attachment to that brand.”
The Media Mix
That 360-degree brand approach is echoed by American Business Media CEO Gordon Hughes. “If we had this conversation two years ago, I’d be talking about the magazine as the brand and its brand extensions. It’s not about that anymore. It’s about the ‘brandscape’,” he says.
This is reflected in the revenue pie that Hughes’ association members are reporting. “Our members will finish up this year with about $10.5 billion in magazine revenues which will make up about 38 percent of revenues on average. Face-to-face will probably be about $10 billion, about 32 percent of revenues, and digital will come in at about $3.3 billion, or 12 percent on average for the ABM member.”
The brandscape, as Hughes calls it, refers to an environment where no one product leads the pack as the primary asset. Though print revenues are still far ahead, in most cases, and magazines have traditionally been regarded as the cornerstone of a brand, the benefits of spreading advertising across the platform outweigh a trickle-down effect of funneling revenue through a “primary” brand first. Publishers should not necessarily see their various platform brands as adjuncts to an alpha brand. “The prospects for all of our member companies are great,” says Hughes. “It’s not just about magazines anymore.”
As a result, notes Hughes, b-to-b publishers desire to be less dependent on ad pages, which will grow less than two percent this year and will likely perform similarly next year. This inherently creates a situation where it’s incumbent on publishers to educate agencies, who, in turn, become their mouthpiece to the marketers. “What has happened through the efforts of our salespeople is that they’ve become more consultative to the agencies. And the marketers have been working closer with the agencies to broaden the b-to-b spectrum so it’s not just magazines.”
This is contrary to an earlier era where, as Hughes puts it, sales teams were going out with a “bagload of stuff,” which put agencies in the unenviable position of having to sort through a potentially messy array of options. That has since coalesced into a more tempered approach.
In the consumer arena, Ellen Oppenheim, CMO at Magazine Publishers of America, says that while the fundamentals of media planning haven’t changed much, greater consumer choice and a higher degree of accountability have caused marketers to “ratchet up” their performance expectations. “Marketers have become more sensitive and want the reassurance that their marketing dollars are working for them,” she says. “What has changed is the consumer environment, where consumers have many more choices and much more advertising confronting them and the increasing ability to tune out messages that aren’t wanted.”
And agencies are feeling the pressure, too. “The complexity of the media landscape has also meant that their jobs have become more complicated and it is more difficult for them to evaluate media options in the same way,” says Oppenheim.
Yet, as Hughes and Hersam point out, this puts publishers, and their magazines, in a good position. While magazines themselves are blending in with a wider array of marketing options for the advertiser, there’s still an opportunity, and a need, to highlight the strength of the magazine within that marketing mix. As the mix of options becomes more varied, one might automatically prioritize marketing channels at the expense of magazines. While this might make sense for certain strategies, recognizing the value each has in the mix as a whole may also be beneficial. “[Marketers] could not get by on just the sexiest execution,” says Oppenheim. “As people start to look at the core consumer connection, that’s something magazines have always had and that bodes well.”
Yet it’s still a fine line for publishers to walk, helping marketers feel as though they’re on the cutting edge while still campaigning for the value of the print platform. “For magazines, you have a bifurcated response,” says Oppenheim, “which is more openness to looking at a broader media mix and marketers’ desire to prove that they’re doing something very different so they don’t look as though they’re left behind the consumer.”
In the Mind of a Media Planner
The marketing options media planners must sift through are growing at an alarming rate. Here are some considerations Roberta Garfinkle, SVP and director of print strategy at TargetCast tcm, uses to weigh magazines in her media selection process.
- Demographically/Psychographically Targeted
- Communicates In-Depth Message
- Time Spend With Medium
- Message Longevity
- Lacks Broadcast Excitement
- Lacks Immediacy
- Long Lead Time
- Lacks ROI and Immediate Feedback