It’s not surprising with ad pages down that magazines are pulling out all the stops for advertisers in an attempt to gain more pages and boost revenues. Earlier this month Starbucks played with Bon Appetit‘s masthead and now Men’s Health has entered the game. If you are a reader of Men’s Health, make sure your cell phone is handy when reading its July/August issue.
Every one of the issue’s ads will be camera-phone readable, thanks to an image recognition technology from SnapTell. When readers snap a photo of an ad they’ll receive instant promotions—from ringtones to coupons to wallpaper. The set-up is especially attractive for advertisers because of its integrated call to action and defined measurement. With advertisers chasing engagement metrics, it’s clear why the platform appeals to them.
Starbucks recently sent an RFP to their media partners with a “call for innovation.” Bon Appetit‘s well-executed response can be seen in its May issue. Readers flip to the masthead page to find the business team’s names and positions listed on a Starbucks-like chalkboard. After the headline, “What do you like best with your Starbucks coffee at home?” six members of Bon Appetit‘s staff share their favorite Starbucks pairings.
With print advertising revenues down and magazines fighting for their share of limited budgets, maybe it’s not that surprising that Bon Appetit opened up its masthead to advertising. Still, though I admit it’s a clever promotion, my sense is that it crosses a line. This isn’t simply advertising—by putting the “promotion” in a format that readers count on to be straight service editorial (just the facts), the page has been transformed into a Bon Appetit endorsement. Perhaps in this increasingly competitive marketplace for magazine advertising this is how “innovation” will be defined, but I’d like to think that there are better, less ethically murky ways to incorporate advertising “innovation” without requiring or encouraging members of a magazine’s staff to become advocates or spokesmen for an advertiser’s product.
Update: Mediaweek reports that the Bon Appetit Starbucks masthead treatment was a one-time deal.
Hammock partner Jim Elliott of the national advertising sales firm the James G. Elliott Company shares some tips on how to train your magazine sales force to sell digital platforms in the latest issue of their company newsletter Ads&Ideas:
Training is, of course, necessary here to sell a brand which resides in different media platforms. But that training has to be in just the fundamentals or basics of each medium—not in the technical or mechanical aspects.
For instance, a seller should understand the fundamentals of podcasting; how it is delivered, its advantages and drawbacks and what kind of advertising works with the medium, but the seller doesn’t have to be an expert in the technology. Hopefully, the brand has a podcast traffic manager to handle the technical questions.
One of our Hammock partners is the national advertising sales firm the James G. Elliott Company. In the latest issue of their company newsletter Ads&Ideas, President Jim Elliott shares his perspective on recent news coming out of the advertising industry:
Oh, what a difference a few months can make! The first quarter of 2008 has been one of the roughest in magazine ad sales history. A quick glance at the revenue numbers for monthly magazines is sobering. The decline has been caused in part by many agencies holding back on placing 2008 schedules due to their clients not releasing budgets. But it has also been due to advertising money being diffused into various new delivery platforms.
Of course, the magazine industry has been trying to hold on to some of these dollars by creating their own multiple delivery platforms for their content. However, there is no dominant selling strategy in the way they actually sell advertising around these new platforms.
For instance, some magazine companies have created a separate digital advertising department. Some have hired outside representatives to handle on-line advertising, with a different outside group to handle mobile and so on. Others have taken their current sales force and trained them to be knowledgeable in several different media platforms.
We are keen on the last strategy being the most sensible approach because, regardless of the platform, it is the brand and its community that set magazines apart from other media. It is the strength of our business. For those of us who have also been on the buying side of the business, there is, and has always been, one thing that stood out about magazine representatives. Both trade and consumer magazine reps have always sold the brand — which is a conceptual sale.
Historically, magazine sellers were allowed to call on clients, account people at the agency and the media department because they were selling the audience, and what made that audience distinctively different, both psychographically and demographically from the competition. Magazine sellers have always been distinctively different stylistically in their approach from that of broadcast sellers in that the sale was more complicated, involving more channels of decision makers built around selling conceptually. Branding is a concept.
A good friend, Dave Smith of Mediasmith —a large digital San Francisco advertising agency—told me recently that their agency had identified many new digital platforms by which to offer up content. For example, they have identified things like:
• Rich Media Display Advertising
• Video Display Advertising (Web)
• Video SEM/SEO & Video Distribution
• Video on Demand & Interactive Television
• Over-the-Top (OTT)
• Digital & Interactive Out-of-Home
• Digital & Interactive Cinema
• Consumer-Generated Media and Advertising
• Social Networks
• Advergaming and In-Game Advertising
• Virtual Worlds
By the way, to learn more about each one of these subjects, you may visit Mediasmith’s website to see a section dedicated to emerging technologies:
From an advertising sales perspective, how many different groups–either internally or externally—will a magazine brand require to handle their ad sales needs in this world of diverse platforms? And what will happen to a consistent brand story with so many different groups involved?
I would strongly argue that magazine representatives are uniquely positioned to handle ad sales in this emerging world of different delivery platforms.
In our travels among publishers, we often hear that magazine reps don’t understand the Internet. But when you investigate these statements more carefully, often what they are really saying is that magazine reps don’t understand the technological aspects of the online medium. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t understand the audience or the community represented and can’t, with a little training, translate the particular online site into a part of a brand for an advertising buyer.
Frankly, how many magazine representatives actually understand the many facets of the print production part of the magazine industry? I have noticed that magazine management frequently confuses the activity of order taking with the art of selling. Those folks that often take orders also perform tasks on the web that are similar to those performed by a print production manager in magazines or a traffic manager in the broadcast world.
Check back this Friday for Part II of Jim’s article.
From Rex Hammock:
Last week, I heard about the impact Katrina had on the publisher and staff of a New Orleans-based magazine and felt Hammock Publishing could reach out and help.
Romney & Charley Richard, publishers of Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine were flooded out of their home and office in New Orleans. (They still haven’t been able to return to either.) They are now living in an RV parked at their daughter’s home in Baton Rouge. Likewise, their staff are all direct victims of the disaster and are now evacuated across five states.
Committed to keeping Louisiana Cookin’ alive, yet consumed with the personal struggles she and her staff are facing, Romney sounded understandably dazed when I spoke with her for the first time last week. I told her that getting out a magazine is something we at Hammock Publishing know how to help her do…and that I know a lot of folks throughout the magazine publishing world will also love to volunteer to help out.
We’ve launched a weblog at KeepCookin.org. Please link to it. Please subscribe to its RSS feed. I know a lot of folks who read this blog are media-types, but we also really want to reach out to food bloggers, as well. Pass the word along to them.
Also, please purchase a subscription to the magazine. It’s a great magazine for folks who enjoy Louisiana cuisine or who have enjoyed the restaurants of New Orleans. Subscribing via the Louisiana Cookin’ website is perhaps the quickest and most-direct way that individuals can help support Romney’s efforts to get back up and running. (That, and advertising, which we discuss on the Keep Cookin’ blog.)
If you’d like more information regarding Keep Cookin’ or would like to volunteer your support, visit KeepCookin.org or e-mail: helpkeepcookin (at) hammock.com
Also, if you’re a blogger, as you make posts about this, please use the tags: magazines, louisianacookin, keepcookin.org