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)

• Widgets

• Mobile

• Digital & Interactive Out-of-Home

• Digital & Interactive Cinema

• Consumer-Generated Media and Advertising

• Mashups

• Blogging

• Social Networks

• Peer-to-Peer


• 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.