Better Together: Print and Digital

“These are not unimportant messages,” said Cali Tran, president of Valassis, the “intelligent media delivery” vendor.

Tran was explaining how the messages Valassis delivers on behalf of its clients, in both paper and digital form, drives savings to American consumers. “They have a real impact on the products and services they choose to purchase.”

The company was founded by George Valassis in Detroit, almost half a century ago, and revolutionized the coupon industry through the first co-operative free standing insert. That’s history, of course, and Valassis has come a long way — as CRO/COO Wayne Powers told DMN last year. Not that it’s come anywhere close to abandoning print.

Integrating print and digital

“Consumers today live as much in a connected as a terrestrial world,” Tran told me, explaining the effectiveness of combining digital and print media. Over the last three years, he said, Valassis has developed new capabilities that leverage knowledge of consumers’ online and mobile behavior to enhance offline messaging. 

Digital data, he said, is “fantastic at targeting consumers based on real-world behavior.” Valassis uses “as much data as we can get our hands on,” he continued. “We borrow, we rent, we buy data from sources which show consumer engagement.” This includes search, display ad and email interactions, and mobile app usage — by time of day, day of week, location; all signals of what a consumer is seeking to do in the context of a specific place and time. “We digest as many digital signals as we can.”

Based on appending offline profiles to online data, Valassis develops media plans for defined consumer segments, across the best combination of channels — including print media, but using digital media, he said, “to reinforce the brand message with display ads and mobile messaging when the consumer is geographically close to a place of business.”

Case by case

Tran emphasized that Valassis has been able to “prove attribution” in the context of foot traffic campaigns. For a quick service restaurant chain, for example, Valassis showed a waste of ad dollars running campaigns in cold weather. Once the temperature crawled above 55 degrees, desktop banners, plus targeted mobile ads — including directions and incentives, and limited to consumers within walking distance on weekday lunchtimes — generated a 135% increase in foot traffic over a controls. The campaign reached 29 million consumers, and also produced a lift in repeat visits (54%) among those reached.

In the case of a rent-to-own furniture retailer, Valassis Apio (proprietary enhanced targeting methodology) matched traditional offline targeting tactics with cross-device matching to deliver a multi-channel campaign of shared print inserts, as well as standard desktop and mobile display ads (using cross-device tracking). The results? A 23.5% attributable increase in foot traffic, an increase of almost 20% in rental agreements, and a 3.4X ROI.

The relevance of print

“I love print,” Tran insisted. “But I do believe print, digital, audio, video, all have a place and time in business live. Depending on the business, and the campaign objectives, different channels will be relevant.”

Tran made a strong case for print’s relevance, especially for “habitual” purchases like food. Messages on Facebook or Twitter are seen, and then vanish. “Print media sits on a coffee table or kitchen counter.” It can be seen by multiple consumers. “It doesn’t mean they’ll look for a deal in the moment, but the constant touch-point maintains brand relevance.” 

In big box retail, in the “shopping moment,” of course, mobile takes center stage; but when it comes to considered purchases — like automobiles — the combination of print and digital (“beautiful images”) is highly relevant. Best-of-breed targeting, the right channels, “all wrapped with a beautiful ribbon.”

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