Is print advertising dead?
Nowadays, many claim “print is dead”. But is print dead? If you take a look around the grocery store, you can still see newspapers and magazines on the shelves. You still find direct mail adverts in your mailbox. But how much longer can we expect to see this? Let’s dive into the past, present, and future of print advertising and see if we can answer this once and for all.
What is Print Advertising?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a print ad as an advertisement that appears in a newspaper or magazine, rather than on television, radio, or the internet. Anything printed on paper, even flyers, booklets, direct mail, or anything else printed on a portable medium, can be classified under print advertising.
The History of Print Advertising
You may or may not have heard of a man named Johannes Gutenberg, whom we can all thank for inventing the printing press in the 1400s. Without the revolutionary work of Gutenberg, we wouldn’t be where we are today in the world of marketing. Gutenberg’s work gave civilization the ability to appeal to the masses – a key facet of marketing. The Industrial Revolution further continued to drive the momentum through mass production innovations. Through creating mechanized processes, the Industrial Revolution allowed advertisements to be printed on a larger scale and therefore expanded consumer bases.
The above was the first advertisement for coffee in London, published in 1657. Looks like even over 350 years ago people still understood the magical qualities of coffee, huh?
Unlike today, early marketing was very much a one-sided communication. Brands had not yet developed, and distribution of the advertisement was still unpredictable. Since there was no telephone or even telegram at this time, all news was distributed through word of mouth, newspapers, and letters, which often had to travel long and far to reach their destination.
While there is some debate as to the first occurrence of the use of print advertising, one of the earliest instances occurred as long ago as 1472 when a flyer was nailed to a church door advertising a book of prayers.
In the 1600s, British newspaper’s advertisements consisted of postings such as migration opportunities to America and promoted items such as spices from India, porcelain from China, and rugs from Persia. The advertisement of consumer goods also became increasingly popular in the 1600s. Mercure Galant, the French gazette of this time period, began to incorporate advertisements on luxury goods and fashion, beginning in 1678, based on the style trends of Louis XIV’s court which also began to spread throughout Europe. This is representative of one of the first examples of brand marketing.
Once in Colonial America, the first newspaper published was by the Boston News-Letter in 1704. The first advertisement to appear in the paper was an announcement of a sale of an Oyster Bay estate in Long Island. Then, in 1729, Benjamin Franklin founded the Pennsylvania Gazette, which allowed even more individuals and businesses the opportunity to advertise through print.
Print advertising really hit its stride in the 19th century. In 1836, La Presse, a French newspaper, lowered the cost of their papers by charging for advertisements. This was the start of commercial press. The Sun newspaper, established by Benjamin Day in 1833, circulated 30,000 papers by 1837. Also during the 19th Century, New York hosted the first advertising convention for agents and John Wanamaker created the first advertising job at his department store, John Wanamaker & Co. (or Wanamaker’s for short), in 1880. By the end of the century, print advertising had become widely accepted by businesses. For instance, Proctor and Gamble budgeted $11,000 for the advertising of its soap during this time.
Not only was newspaper advertising popular during the 19th century, but so was the use of trade cards. The above is an example of a scented trade card used for Hoyt’s German Cologne. Isn’t it crazy to think that print advertisers are still using this method today?
In the 20th century, W.K. Kellogg advertised his cornflakes in 6 newspapers in 1906 and was operating with an advertising budget of $1 million by 1915. In 1936 Life magazine became the first publication to make $100 million per year in advertising revenue. However, with the 20th century also came the establishment of radio and television, which had a direct effect on print advertising.
Finally, the 21st century, while continuing to develop upon radio and television advertising, also brought about digital printing. Digital printing has helped print ads to be displayed on a larger scale, such as on buses, airplanes, billboards, and more.
Whew! Now that we’ve got our history lesson for the day over and done with, let’s discuss the relevance of modern-day print advertising.
Types of Print Advertising
The first type of print advertising is newspaper advertising. This includes national, local, and community papers. Small businesses can really benefit from advertising in newspapers, if done so correctly. If you are a small, local business you would benefit more from advertising in your local paper, as opposed to a national publication. This type of advertising can help your business to attract local customers. However, if you’re a larger company who does business across the nation, advertising in a national paper may be a smarter option. The cost of this type of advertising depends on the publication you are looking at advertising in, ad size, and even the physical location of your ad.
The next type of print advertising that is available is magazine advertisements. Magazine advertisements allow for more creative freedom and therefore give the opportunity to create visually appealing ads. This is ideal for those businesses that are wishing to build up the image of their brand and increase awareness. Magazine ads can get to be a little pricy, depending on the publication, page size, and location. They can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $2,000.00. To get the most out of your money, it is important to make sure you place your print ads in magazines that are relevant to what you are selling and creating ads that create value for the reader – AKA don’t advertise your camouflage hunting jacket in Vogue magazine, okay?
Another type of print advertising is directory advertising. Directories includes places such as the Yellow Pages or other local business directories, such as your Chamber of Commerce. By placing an ad in a directory, consumers will tend to place more trust in your business. Keep in mind larger display ads will attract the most attention and are often perceived, by the consumer, to be more reputable than smaller ads. Don’t forget, larger ads also cost more money.
Some of the other types of print ads available to choose from include brochures, flyers, newsletters, banners, postcards, and more.
The Pros of Print Advertising
Print ads tend to appeal to a different mindset than digital ones. When someone is looking through a magazine, for example, they are searching for not only information, but also inspiration and are doing so in a more eased and relaxed manner. Advertisers can use this to their advantage by creating specific content that will add value to the reader’s life. Let’s use Brides magazine as an example and let’s say you own a business that sells wedding gowns. From an advertiser point of view, it is safe to assume anyone that is reading through that magazine is probably planning a wedding and looking for specific content, so you know as the owner of that store that you can provide value to the reader by advertising your gowns in the magazine.
There also tends to be a level of credibility that comes along with printed ads. Consumers will often put more trust into an ad that appears in a respectable publication, as opposed to an ad that pops up on a website they are scrolling through. This is often described as the “halo effect”.
Readers of print also tend to be less distracted, which therefore makes it easier for advertisers to gain their attention. How many times have you caught yourself with multiple tabs open on your computer, Netflix on the TV, and texting all at the same time? Probably more than once. Print has the tendency to keep the reader more focused than its digital counterpart. If someone is taking the time to sit down, relax, and flip through a magazine or newspaper, they are more likely to notice an ad than those online viewers who bounce around from site to site trying to find what they need and putting up their blinders regarding anything else on the screen.
Finally, print advertising is a smart and effective medium for establishing brand awareness and creating brand value. Because advertising through print is done in a much more broad manner and digital marketing tends to focus on a narrow target audience, businesses are able to reach many more potential customers than through digital marketing alone. Just think, if people are committed enough to a concept or product to purchase a magazine on it, the print ad you place in that publication will resonate with the reader more so than it would in other scenarios.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, here are some statistics on print advertising:
- • There are still 221.9 million magazine readers as of last year.
- • Customers find print ads 43 percent less annoying than they do online ads.
- • The global print industry is worth $765 billion more than the online advertising industry.
- • In 2015, the response rate to direct mail marketing pieces was 37 percent higher than e-mail.
- • Nearly 60 percent of chief marketing officers agree that print marketing is a useful channel.
- • 64 percent of B2B shoppers name print as one of the sources of information that they trust the most.
The Cons of Print Advertising
Unlike with digital advertisements, print ads require a longer response time. The time it takes to be printed, the time it takes to get to the consumer, and then the time it takes for the consumer to take action all must be considered before deciding on a print advertising plan. Also, it is important to note that if what you are offering is time-sensitive, print may not be your best choice.
Also, this form of advertising can tend to cost more than online advertising. The cost of magazine advertisements, in particular, can run pretty high, and that number doesn’t even include the cost of creating and designing the ad itself. In many instances, businesses will place multiple ads in a single issue, which again increases the price that is paid. Centerfolds will also cost more than, say, a small ad towards the back of the publication.
The most obvious and debated downfall of print advertising is the internet. Nowadays, most people go to the internet to find answers for their burning questions. Before the rise of the internet, you had to look at the Yellow Pages in the phone book to find an electrician, or look in the newspaper for movie times. Can you remember the last time you did either of those things? Yeah, I can’t either. Online directories have eliminated the need we used to have for print ads.
In order to compete in today’s market, even newspapers and magazines have now gone digital. Total ad revenue for newspapers in 2013 was down 49% than the previous decade. In 2014, 91 U.S. and Canada-based magazines ceased publication. The National Journal is one of many publications that have recently decreased their issue frequency. In an order to combat the decline in revenue, many publications have begun to raise their subscription and advertising costs.
Costs of Print Advertising
While not forgetting the cost that comes with creating the print ad, the cost of print advertising varies depending on the publication, circulation, number of insertions, and quantity, among other factors. All publications will have an Advertising Rate Card, which will break down their advertising costs. Make sure you familiarize yourself with these cards.
Costs involved with direct mail advertising include not only the printing costs, but also the purchase of qualified lists that identify your target market. It’s important to note that a typical response rate for direct mail is about 1-2%, which means you will possibly need to send out thousands of mailings to obtain a successful conversion rate. It also means you will need to mail out enough to absorb the cost of printing and mailing in order to still make a profit.
The Future of Print Advertising
When something new comes along, it doesn’t always mean the old version disappears. Many may have thought radio would become irrelevant when television came around, but it’s still here. The same goes with print advertising. Just because digital marketing is here to stay, it doesn’t mean print is dead. If done right, and in conjunction with digital, print ads can become an effective part of your marketing mix.
While print publications may be down, it also means that only those who are truly engaged are there for you to reach. Publications have also begun to offer print and digital bundles, which allow the advertiser to reach a wider market.
To make print ads work for your business, it’s important to remember that the intention of your ad should be to create recognition, and not to sell. You want the reader to remember you versus the competition when the time comes for them to make a decision. A key part of this is repetition. Just like the television commercials you see over and over, get your ad in front of the consumer more than once. They say people need to see an ad around 7 times before they take action. And don’t forget to show them how to get in touch with your business, whether it is by phone, website, or physical address.
Tracking the ROI from print ads can be challenging, but not impossible. You should make sure you have a system in place to track your print ads. One way that this can be done is by using an ad-specific URL or a unique phone number which will allow you to track how much traffic is generated from that particular ad. You can also include QR codes or use the ol’ fashioned “How did you find us?” question. Print-specific coupon codes not only entice the consumer to make a purchase, but also provide you with a traceable system for your ad.
Hopefully, if done really well, your ad will make enough of an impression that the reader will share it with others, then they’ll share it with more people, and from there it could show up on social media, bringing both the print and digital world together.
As much as some would probably like to, we just won’t be able to get everyone to agree one way or another whether print advertising is still “alive”. But, I think there is enough evidence that it is safe to say that if done well, and in conjunction with digital, print can and will add value to your business. So don’t cut print out of your marketing mix just yet.