At the American Business Media Top Management Meeting, R.R. Donnelley’s Walter Zdunek introduced a session, and spoke eloquently about Donnelley’s commitment to the magazine industry. Not only is Donnelley the largest printer in the industry, Zdunek said, it’s the largest printer of smaller magazines as well.

That commitment shines through in Donnelley’s marketshare, customer service and elsewhere. Donnelley is a great company, there’s no doubt about that. And with the recent acquisition of Banta, it stands to be bigger and more capable than ever.

But Donnelley is an enigma. Donnelley rarely advertises. It rarely exhibits at top industry events. And in conversations with its marketing team, Donnelley executives are frank: They believe they get more ROI through small invite-only custom events than they do through advertising.

That’s all fine in a sense. Companies need to make the marketing decisions that are right for them. But to me, there is a disconnect when the country’s largest magazine printer doesn’t advertise.

Here’s my reason: The magazine industry exists because of advertising. Donnelley’s hundreds of magazine customers exist because of advertising. And Donnelley thrives when its customers sell lots of advertising—the more pages its customers print, the more they pay their supplier—R.R. Donnelley.

So by not advertising, the country’s largest magazine printer is in effect saying its customers’ business model doesn’t work for it. To me, there is an incongruity there.

I don’t really mean to single out Donnelley—there are plenty of suppliers that do not advertise. In fact, some other big printers don’t spend much either. And naturally, I’m biased. I know advertising works. Beyond that, I think the big suppliers especially have an obligation to show support for the industry they owe their existence to.

In the end, publishers will make their supplier decisions based on value—how well they know and trust a supplier. (Of course, advertising builds awareness and trust.)

But I’m suggesting that those magazine-industry suppliers whose marketing methods exclude advertising ought to be prepared to have a conversation about those marketing methods with their magazine-publisher prospects—all of whom live or die by advertising.

More on ABM’s Top Management Meeting
-Brandscape vs. Workscape
-Observations From ABM Top Management