Print is not dead

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Why print advertising is still an integral part of your marketing efforts

You’ve heard it before: print is dead. Technology has sufficiently killed any relevance of newspapers. Don’t waste your time with print advertising… everyone is online now anyway. No need for that printed brochure if you’ve got a website. So you are probably asking yourself, why spend the money on print advertising when everything you read and hear is that people aren’t searching out print anymore, and online advertising is so much cheaper (and in some cases, FREE!)?

The decline of print advertising

There’s certainly truth to the fact that in the past 10 years, there has been a considerable shift in print advertising. Many clients that I have worked with in my different capacities have gone from consistently placing print advertising to not placing any at all. Media plans have become less rigid because they deal with fewer print deadlines (‘media’ is the industry term for advertising, a media plan is a calendar view of all the advertising a company plans to place, when the ads are due, what dates or issues the ads will appear in print or online, and how it fits into the company’s media budget). And even the need for media placement specialists has dwindled. When companies start running their own ad campaigns through social media (such as creating a Facebook fan page or using Twitter), the perception is that the need for paid advertising has been eliminated. Why pay for something you can create for free?

Furthermore, with the introduction of online advertising and the ability to track click-throughs (how many people clicked on your ad, leading them to your website) and measure website analytics (how did your customers find your website, and how often are they on your website), companies began to get spoiled. They found a way to finally quantify the ad dollars they were spending: with online advertising, they know exactly who their advertising dollars were reaching, and how well the advertising was working, and it was almost immediate. There was no need to wait to see if there was a bump in sales thanks to last month’s print campaign. With print, there is still no way to accurately measure whether a customer saw your billboard, newspaper ad, or magazine, and in turn, responded specifically to that ad.

Why use a cross-media approach

In reality, advertising isn’t just about how many people respond to one ad. Advertising is about reinforcement. The ultimate goal is recognition of your brand, and building a public trust and image for your brand. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or the shop around the corner, you want the public to know you exist, and in advertising, you do that through repetition.

Let’s go back to the ability to track online advertising. What you’ll never know through online advertising and tracking is how many times that one customer had seen your advertising before they decided to click on your ad. Running several print ads (and online ads) in targeted locations is your key to building recognition. The more often your potential customers see your logo and are presented with your ad campaign, the more likely they will recognize your company brand. The more familiar they are with what you do or who you are, the more likely they are to feel comfortable hiring you, purchasing from you, or using your services.

Yahoo’s advertising blog recently posted a chart showing that the majority of people get news from BOTH online and offline sources. This is a perfect example of why a cross-media approach will be most effective in brand recognition. As you can see, only 2% of the people surveyed only get their news online. 59% of the people get their news both online AND offline. The offline news consumption covered a number of media outlets: radio, tv, and yes, even print. In fact, 50% of those polled still read their local newspaper.

What are my print advertising options?

Instead of allocating all of your advertising dollars to online advertisements, spread the wealth. You need to be targeted in your approach. Simply placing ads anywhere you find available isn’t going to serve your business. This is where you may consider hiring a media or marketing professional. They will help you to determine who your target market is, and how you will best reach them through your advertising.

There are many options to consider, and the size of your business and budget will of course be a factor. Local billboards and local newspapers are good places to start if you are a small-town business. Other possibilities include advertising on other local business bulletin boards, taking out ads in local event programs, or contacting your local tourism bureau (they probably have guidebooks which they sell advertising in).

And while this article focuses mainly on print, don’t forget about radio and TV ads as well. Local radio stations are a great way to get your name out there, and you can contact your local cable company for options such as advertising on public access, or even advertising on popular cable channels. Advertising on TV doesn’t mean you have to have $2.5 million stashed away for a 30-second SuperBowl advertisement! There are many more affordable options for local and small businesses.

Remember, advertising is an important tool for businesses to keep customers coming in the door. One ad isn’t enough to drive a stampede of customers through your door. It takes time, and in most cases, some money. You need to think strategically, and never narrowly. But you should never overlook the power of advertising across multiple platforms, and that includes print.