Folio: You have a rich history of working with brands on the advertising side. What are brands looking for from their media partners?
Mark Mulhern: The channels may change but the need never does — to reach the right audience at the right price and make an impact that drives the brand’s growth.
Different media partners bring different strengths to the table. From reach, to impactful advertising units, to impressive precision. Precious few bring real audience insight and data, which will be the most valuable elements in the future.
Folio: We hear conflicting information about ROI in the print-versus-digital debate. As someone who works with brands on strategy, what’s your take?
Mulhern: The digital transformation of brand marketing is about so much more than just a shift of dollars from one spreadsheet column to another. Creating brand preference is a complicated business because you are dealing with humans. Daniel Kahneman and Byron Sharp both do a good job of digging into the psychology of that.
And when you look at the media mix modelling, it consistently tells us that it’s about making print and digital work well together.
No amount of programmatic retargeting can create that show-stopping impact of a great print execution, and no number of inside-front covers will give you a measurable way to drive conversion, so we learn to use them together in unique roles in the customer journey
Folio: What’s something magazine brands can do better to meet the needs of their advertising partners?
Mulhern: Continue to innovate where they engage with their audiences and help brands benefit from that.
Cosmopolitan is a leading example of this in how they have made Cosmo the #1 Discover Channel for women on Snapchat and provided a whole new way for their advertisers to reach their audience — in terms of both platform and executional style.
Folio: What’s something magazines are doing right?
Mulhern: The good ones are all experimenting with new content types and new paths to monetizing that content.
The Economist's Espresso app is a world class example of product reformulation to reflect a new consumption reality. They really thought about how to meet an unmet need. While not strictly a magazine, The New York Times is a client of ours and constantly amaze us with their ambition to redefine great journalism—from VR to news-by-text bot experiences.
Folio: Tell us about your favorite magazine ad campaign. Why did it work?
Mulhern: Ha! I’m an ad junkie so no way I can get it down to one!
Two great campaigns spring to mind immediately: the Rolling Stone Perception/Reality campaign is brilliantly simple and totally transformed the magazine’s fortunes with advertisers. The Economist’s "I never read The Economist'” poster created a cachet and reputation (and advertising visual style) that drove two decades of growth.
Two great campaigns for magazines that ran in magazines — meta, I know.
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