Do Gimmick Ads Work?
They pull out, fall out and can slow you down as you anxiously search
for the latest magazine feature on your favorite celebrity: They’re
big, bulky, attention-grabbing ads. They run the gamut from French
doors to gatefolds to flaps, CD inserts, pop-ups and more.
But do they work? Can publishers command a premium for out-of-the-box
gimmick ads, and do advertisers like them? Motivated by a brochure
recently produced by Publishers Press, FOLIO: asked an array of
publishers and advertisers for their take. Based on our sample,
publishers like the eye-catching ads because the bigger the ad, the
more money the magazine can charge for the ad. And advertisers
generally like them because they stand out from a magazine’s editorial
content, making it more likely readers will notice them.
Genevieve Bos, owner and founding publisher of women’s magazine Pink,
says advertisers often approach her magazine with "gimmick" ideas.
"It’s exciting for us and more importantly for the readers," Bos says.
"We feel strongly that tactical differences in print make reading the
magazine more fun and entertaining and gives a level of interactivity
to print that other mediums don’t have."
Charging a Premium
As a new magazine, Pink tries
to accommodate the ads and make a profit without gouging the
advertiser, Bos says. "We have our printers quote the creative piece
and then make sure that Pink is taken care of and that the pricing is also reasonable for the client."
Magazine advertisers use heavier paper, fold-out tabs, stickers,
Post-it notes, inserts, CD carriers and other strategies to catch the
eyes of readers, says Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president/director
of print strategy for TargetCast TCM. "The assumption is, that if it
didn’t pay off, people wouldn’t do it," she says.
But missing the mark on eye-catching ads can mean more than just
missing out on potential customers, Garfinkle says. "Your production
charges go up incredibly, according to the complexity of the unit," she
says. "And if you’re sampling, the Post Office gets involved and you
have to pay extra postage because you’re offering an additional
product, and then there’s your space cost. So, by simple instinct, if
it didn’t pay off, advertisers probably wouldn’t do it."
And Kevin Arsham, trade media director for New York-based OMD, says the
more creative the ad, the more costly to produce. "The additional cost
is in thousands," says Arsham. "But allocating $10,000 to run really
creative ads in a few publications is not a bad idea."
Still, for advertisers, creativity, rather than gimmicks, are the best
way to stand out, says Ellen Oppenheim, executive vice president/chief
marketing officer, for Magazine Publishers of America. "I think
gimmicks are trivializing advertisers’ desire to break through the
clutter. It’s a trend and you can get excellent results. At the same
time, it’s not unlike the Super Bowl. Sometimes you hit hard and win,
but when you hit hard and miss, you really miss."
What works: Absolut Vodka’s Christmas insert, which offered free gifts
like ties or scarfs with the company’s logo and ran for consecutive
years a decade ago in New York, says Garfinkle. What doesn’t work: Anything considered "interruptive" to readers, says Oppenheim.
Consider the Alternative
Arsham says a viable alternative would be to polybag research along
with ad or running a several pages of a white paper, especially in
b-to-b publications. "You can also run a quarter-page ad for three
consecutive pages as a teaser leading up to a really spectacular full
page ad," he says.
Oppenheim suggests advertisers shape the mood of the advertisement to
the mood of the magazine. If the tone of the magazine is humorous, the
ad should be humorous. If it’s a sports-themed article then the ad
should follow suit. "It’s about demographic targeting," she says. "An
ad in Golf doesn’t have to be about golf. But the tone and the manner should reflect the publication."
Still, gimmick advertising creative certainly does not work for every
magazine. Small b-to-b and regional magazines, especially, are often
unable to put in the time and money required to accommodate the
advertisements. That’s why, more often than not, the eye-catching ads
are found in large consumer magazines, such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly, says Alison Tocci, president/group publisher for Time Out New York.
"If we have to close a section early to accommodate a special unit, it
slows us down at the printer and speeds up our production schedule at
once, a lethal combination for a local weekly," she adds.