The York Times has the latest numbers here. Magazine ad revenues down 11% since 2005.
Back in the 90’s when our little company was spending up to a million dollars a year on marketing, we wouldn’t go near a print ad, unless we were given the space. Even then, we were reluctant, as the effort to pay the designer was likely not worth the marginal business gained.
The weird thing about us was that we cared about conversion (vs “branding”) , and despite dozens of attempts to make ads pay, the ROI on print ads was always abysmal compared to direct mail.
Despite our total neglect of “brand management” (we simply focused on getting people to our events, and then making their experience as close to perfection as possible) we developed a fabulous brand. We were firm believers in the old bromide that your brand is “what people say about you when you’re not around.” If that’s the case, how does a print ad assist in that effort?
I think one reason glossy print ads are attractive is that they’re easy. There’s hardly any copy to be written, there’s fewer suppliers to deal with, no lists to research, etc. Compared to a well-managed mail or online campaign that really delivers results, it’s effortless.
Our mantra was “Branding Happens.” Getting and keeping customers is the way to achieve that.
My sense tells me that if you ran a scatterplot comparing companies that have big print ad budgets to their expense per capita on lunches at fancy restaurants, you’d see a strong correlation…