Magazine article Marketing

You Say - You Pay

Magazine article Marketing

You Say - You Pay

Article excerpt

Cathy Bond finds publishers have come to live with advertorials, even to promote them with profit, but as a client you should establish very clear targets before putting your mouth where your money is...

When did you last read a glossy magazine? Do you recall the pattern? Big ads at the front. Flick. An advertising promotion. Flick, flick. And another of those advertorial things. Flick. Now an advertising feature. A fragrance advertisement, back page...

Sound familiar? It should, for all that emphasis on promotions is now quite normal. With advertorials soaking up around 15% of consumer magazines' total ad space, (which itself can run close to 50% of pagination) it adds up to a lot of pages for which companies are keenly coughing up so that you will see their products-dwell upon them, even.

Yet this proliferation of persuasion appears not to be a problem: if research carried out by the major magazine publishers is to be believed, readers like to see advertorials - and may even prefer them to conventional editorial. They're not fools: they know it's advertising, but they appear to believe they are getting good value and good reading.

"A good advertorial promotes in a straightforward way and doesn't t set out to con the reader," says Diane Long, head of promotions for Esquire at National Magazine Company. She goes on: "Added value comes via extra information that conventional material doesn't have, and perhaps there is also a special offer or a competition. It's a whole package."

There is, too, the bald fact that readers tend to trust information which is seen to have the magazine's stamp of approval. Research by IPC Magazines quotes a Chat reader: "Because it's in the magazine you tend to trust it more - you feel it must be good or else they wouldn't be able to print it."

In both look and content, the modern advertorial is moulded in the host magazine's style machine. It conforms to what the editor knows will bond with his or her readers. If an advertiser needs column inches to put his case, it won't be an immediate turn-off.

It's true to say that the cooperative approach has led to advertising promotions becoming one of the most potent weapons in consumer PR. Take a recent advertorial from Sony (just one from the company's wide-ranging, regular series placed in consumer magazines throughout the year) which appeared in the high summer issue of Esquire. The products featured were an underwater housing and a lighting unit, designed to allow camcorders to be used 75 metres below the surface. Of course, Sony's aim was not to turn waterproof video gear into a high street winner overnight: the approach was tactical.

In fact, the exotic notion of filming beneath the sea benefits both Esquire and Sony - by being, visually, perfectly in tune with Esquire's young, affluent, aspirational reader-ship. It is undiluted image marketing, saved from pretentiousness by its brief but informative copy and a reader replyline.

There is, though, a downside. "There's a danger of the market being swamped, and magazine editors need to guard against this." says Sony's promotions manager, Sue Crowley, who handles all of the company's advertorial projects in-house. And it follows that if magazines became tomes of house style, the advertisement that does something radically different will be the one that stands out.

According to Media Monitoring Services, advertorial pagination in 129 consumer titles increased 14% over the year to October. Publishers frequently put a ceiling of "not much more than 15%" on ad promotion vagainst conventional advertising. That figure is not far off being standard in some magazines. But the reader's tolerance can and does snap- as soon as he or she feels misled. And the advertorial's recent, rapid growth has already prompted new guidelines from the Periodical Publishers Association, which insists that promotions are very clearly labelled as such.

In particular, a well constructed advertorial will allow a PR campaign to target specific consumer sectors in a relatively cost-effective way. …

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