When most consumers think “advertising,” they most often think “television.” But television is the most costly of advertising media, both in airtime and in production costs. Although local and cable television advertising can be cost effective for some companies, only large and nationally distributed brands can cost-justify prime-time network television advertising that can run nearly a million dollars for a thirty-second spot, not counting several million for production. Add a star (like Jerry Seinfeld for American Express), and you’re talking tens of millions. Even though prime-time television costs less on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis than print advertising, at least one study has shown it to be less effective
Typical Costs per Thousand (CPM) of Major Media Buys
Although a growing number of financial services companies are turning to television to help position a product or brand the company, print advertising, in the vast majority of cases, is the primary medium for conveying product information. There are three good reasons for this.
Print ads are less expensive to create and place. Of the one hundred top advertising spenders, almost all of whom rely primarily on television, only four financial companies—American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Morgan Stanley’s Discover—could afford to budget the $300 million or so required to make the list.
The complexity of financial products lends itself to print. Whereas television is particularly adept at conveying emotions, print is better able to communicate facts and figures.
Print media offer the ability to target more precisely. There are hundreds of thousands of print publications, from free weekly shoppers to slick, monthly publications for pension fund managers.
Choosing the Right Publication
Print advertising includes newspapers, consumer magazines, specialized trade magazines, and directories (everything from the Yellow Pages to specialized industry directories). When deciding on print placement, here are some key questions to consider:
What publications do your target markets read? For most institutional advertisers trying to reach financial professionals, this is a simple question. There are standard trade journals that everyone in a given industry reads (for example, in money management, such publications as Institutional Investor and Pensions & Investments). There is some debate over whether institutional advertisers should ever bother advertising in general business publications, like Business Week or the Wall Street Journal, but this is largely a question of budget and ego-CEOs like to see their companies in the Journal.
On the consumer side, media placement is a complex and highly specialized subject. Ad agencies and specialist media firms perform sophisticated analyses to determine which of thousands of publications best match target market segments. Two key considerations for financial advertisers are budget and competition. How much can you afford to spend? Print ads, depending on their size and the circulation of the publication, can range from several hundred dollars— for a local daily or weekly publication with a circulation of several thousand- to upwards of $75,000 for a full-page ad in the 2.2 million circulation USA Today—the largest-circulation U.S. daily newspaper. It is important to keep in mind that advertising page rates will vary greatly depending on whether the ad is black-and-white or color, the overall bargaining power of the advertiser, the number of pages and repeats being contracted for, and whether the ad will appear in regional or national editions, or in weekday or Sunday editions. Bargains can sometimes be found by waiting until the last minute for left-over space in a publication.
Where are your competitors advertising? This is a trick question, since a key goal is to avoid the clutter of competing ads. During the market boom of the 1990s, ads from mutual fund companies fattened consumer financial titles like Money, Smart Money, and Kiplinger’s. But with so many companies advertising the same type of product, the message got lost in the clutter. Smart advertisers began looking for alternatives, like shelter magazines and other publications aimed at wealthy consumers.
More Print Buying Decisions
Once you’ve decided where to place your advertising, there are still four more questions to consider: size, color, placement, and frequency. Size is the number of column inches the ad takes on a page. It can range from a two-line classified ad to a multipage spread. Placement refers to where the ad will appear in the publication. Frequency is the number of times the ad appears.
Size.Budget is the main determinant of size, tempered by competitive considerations. If competitors are placing full-page ads, a quarter- page may not get noticed. In newspapers, some advertisers have found that a three quarters page can be as effective as a full page, because there is editorial matter around it.
Color. As table below shows, four-color ads generally have more impact than black and white.
Placement. This is often the publication’s decision, although some placements can be bought (the inside front and back covers and the outside back cover). One of the best placements is opposite the table of contents.10 Advertisers prefer “front of the book” to “back of the book,” largely because many people never get to the back of a magazine. The more an advertiser is willing to spend advertising in a publication, the greater its influence over where the ads will be placed.
Frequency. This decision is probably more important than the size or placement of the ad. Repetition in advertising is important. Multiple exposures are needed to generate awareness of the ad and the advertiser. The classic “Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting” showed that three-quarters of an audience forgot the message one week after exposure. Frequency reversed the pattern of forgetfulness and built recall. Many factors determine the precise number of exposures that are needed, but recall, brand familiarity, brand-quality ranking, and interest in buying all increase with repeated exposures.
The Impact of Ad Size and Placement
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