In July, Meredith Corp. launched its Engagement Dividend program, a guaranteed ROI investment partnership for select advertisers. Already, Meredith has met with over 100 companies (which equates to even more brands) about a possible partnership in the program.

According to Dick Porter, EVP/president of Meredith Media Sales, the Engagement Dividend program holds the publisher accountable for the dollars spent by marketers, “When you think about the marketing funnel, from brand consideration to intent to purchase to sales, the magazine industry broadly gets credit for the top of the funnel, the brand building; but less credit relative to other mediums, like sales at the bottom of the funnel. [This initiative] shows how magazines really can get results.”

Partnering with Nielsen’s HomeScan, a panel that monitors about 100,000 households, the publisher compared Meredith readers’ buying activities with a control group of non-Meredith consumers. Across 14 consumer brands in four categories (food, beauty, home and packaged goods), staff found sale lifts across the board.

Instead of simply arming ad sellers with this information, Meredith decided to up the stakes by working in a guarantee of a positive ROI based on these findings: enter the Engagement Dividend.

Establishing Publisher Accountability

Porter says each agreed upon ROI involves a nuanced conversation between publisher and brand, “The negotiation is based on what we think the growth number should be.”

In its first year, Porter says only 10 companies will be included in the program. While he would not share who has signed up and how many slots remain open, he tells FOLIO:, “We’re looking for folks who can declare they will spend more than they had in the prior year. Two reasons to limit: putting ourselves on the hook; not just to make our rate bases, but we’re also putting ourselves on the hook for their results. There are some variables we don’t own: acts of God, discounting from competitors, creative messages, etc. The other reason is that to some extent there’s beauty in limited inventory.”

Of dialogue produced from Engagement Dividend discussions, Porter says, “If anyone was wondering if the role of procurement in marketing was real or imagined, I can promise you it’s very real.”

In tandem with Meredith 360’s marketing services, Porter says the publisher is “helping [brands] through all part of the funnel.” This includes troubleshooting for low brand interest, dropped sales, etc.

Digital may be the buzz movement in the industry, but a new demand for accountability is emerging as an essential (and grounding) notion for publishers.

Like David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, said at the American Magazine Conference earlier this month, “We didn’t used to account for every dollar; it’s new for us to be accountable for every dollar like our friends in advertising.”

“I don’t think accountability goes away; there’s too much data that makes it too available,” says Porter. “It puts magazines on a new playing field up there with digital, where you can track everything.”

Time Inc. began its own initiative to share customer purchase behavior with advertisers through the PinPoint program, which launched in early October. PinPoint uses shopper data from Nielsen Catalina Solutions, matching it with its subscriber data in order to quantify campaign impact through Time Inc. brands.