In circulation: Are magazine ads a good buy?

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A MediaPost article published last week bemoaned the fate of magazine ad sales, pointing out that media buyers are reluctant to invest in print advertisements.

The reasoning behind this decision appears sound: With all the hoopla around magazine shutterings this year, investors are lax to buy ad pages that may not exist in six months. In addition, goes the article, advertisers with tighter 2009 budgets are more prone to invest in media that are less expensive and more measurable (like the Internet) and easier to cancel on should times get tougher.

I can understand all this, and I'm sure that various media buyers, advertisers and consultants know more about this than I do (I hope). However, I also happen to be biased in favor of print, and something about tossing out print advertising in favor of other media just bugs me.

In some ways, it seems like a nearsighted look at media buying. Sure, ads in magazines may seem costly right now, but what about their overall value? I'm thinking here of research released by marketing ROI research and consulting firm Marketing Evolution back in October, which showed that, at certain stages in the purchase funnel, magazines are more efficient than TV or online at driving brand familiarity and purchase intent.

“Based on these results, Marketing Evolution recommends an important change to media planning,” reads a brief on the research from Magazine Publishers of America (yes, another biased source, but not necessarily wrong). “They advocate utilizing an ‘impact-based' approach that starts with allocating the most efficient medium based on ad impact, rather than beginning with the most cost- efficient medium based on exposure.”

Basically, the study tells us, advertisers should consider the full impact of their media buys, rather than just perceived up-front efficiencies. I hope that means magazines will get a second look.

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