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Industry Insight

On the Power of Print Campaign

Five leading magazine publishers have pitched in on a multimillion-dollar ad campaign touting the "power of print." BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Power of Print Campaign.

By Bob Sacks
Published: March 3, 2010

Once again into the valley rode the Fortune 500. Once again, into the breach they ride feeling the need to defend the pious honor and value of print. Once again, they completely miss the damn target, this time by a mile, a 90 million dollar mile. I am not saying that as an industry there aren't things that we should be doing to put a finger in the leaking dike. But the dike still has integrity and is still holding back a vast sum of print revenue and print advertising. I am saying that what we do needs to be smart and well targeted.

I guess my complaint is their marksmanship. There isn't any. The people who put this campaign together to protect print don't have a clue what they are doing and who to aim at. It is also clear that the instigators of this campaign don't use the Internet or any digital component therein. I say print has much integrity and life left in it, but you wouldn't know it by this desperate ad campaign.

The campaign claims to target advertisers, shareholders and industry influencers. Well listen up my friends, you just insulted them all. The media buyers live in a digital world. When you bellow in one of the ads that, "The Internet is fleeting. Magazines are immersive," every media buyer knows that is pure bunk. It is the Internet that is immersive, and the kids that buy the ads and spend the advertising money know it. They live on Facebook, twitter and hundreds of other social network sites and programs. You display an utter lack of contemporary culture and knowledge. You show your dotage at every opportunity. Please don't attack your customers where they live. Media buyers live on the web and only visit magazines. And in my book, visiting is OK and can still be very profitable, but not if you try to tell them that they live in a fleeting, soon- to-be-evaporated world. That is a lie.

Oh, and the other tag line from yesterday's report - "We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines." Oh Really? Perhaps you missed the report that the web is now the 2nd most trusted place for news - second only to TV. Perhaps you missed the news that 57% of the webs social media users are over the age of 35. Perhaps you didn't know that Facebook has more than 400 million active users, and of those active users, 61 percent of Facebook's users are middle-aged or older.

All I am saying is that the campaign is a total waste. Exactly to whom is it directed and exactly what are your expectations on an ROI? Is this the campaign that will save the nation of print?

Look, I love print and have been deeply involved in it for over 40 years. It is a beautiful technology. It still has great merit and worth. We will survive by being what we are - useful, informative, reasonably priced and unbreakably transportable. We have the best editors and writers on the planet and have the ability to band together thousands and sometimes, hundreds of thousands, of like-minded readers to our brands on a regular basis.

More or less that is who we are. You may think I have over-reacted, and perhaps that is so. But I firmly believe that attacking the web and the future of information distribution is, at best, terribly misguided.

The Internet is not going to go away, get smaller, nor become irrelevant.



By David Dilling on Mar 03, 2010

Good points, but the campaign may have actually hit the mark on one hand, but largely missed on the other.

I read the printed version of Time magazine at my leisure and indeed immerse into areas I normally do not online. On the Internet I may click into a link to a Time article via Google Alerts, CNN alerts or other watchlists I have, but then quickly scan that article for relevant info and escape.

Print needs to embrace the Internet and all the communication possibilities it can offer. Later this week I have a piece planned on the Markzware blog which asks:

"What is the difference between a Print Service Provider and a Communication Consultant?"

Needless to say, for many print-shops, the two should be becoming synonymous.


By Michael J on Mar 03, 2010

Go get 'em. I thought it was interesting to see that for the first time the TV industry is going to be running ads about TV is good. Please. Can you imagine Google running ads saying the Internet is good.

Just wanted to get some feedback on what people might think of 2d codes as a big deal.

The way I see it everybody loves Print. The real problem is that there is no accountability and a huge history of bs around circ figures. If 2d codes can supply data streams to CMO's and agencies, I think it will give them cover to do what they really want to do anyway.

Given the wave of mobile and hyperlocal, I'm thinking that versioned print - mags and newspapers do it all the time - with 2d codes and cell phones, it should mean a new value proposition for Print.

A typical use case might be a brand doing a distribute and print post card campaign through someone like Consolidated or Donnelly. With a QR code that gives a coupon or a link to a video.

The more I turn it over and over, I can't see why this won't work.

Any thoughts?


By Steve Brown on Mar 04, 2010

I think the industry does need a wake up call.

Regarding 2D, I think this is a great technology and some of us are starting to provide this, but it's likely to be one of those solutions that may exist out there for years before the public at large knows how to use it...probably a candidate for the industry to promote.

I think another big difference is ad space on the internet. In Facebook, you get a few pixels to try and entice people to "click through". I don't know about you, but most of those click through experiences have been negative, with people trying to embed cookies, drag me through endless queries, or were overall misleading.

A print ad is "safe", and pictures can be worth 1,000 words.

I am going to reach out and read the piece in reference, so I cannot comment on its effectiveness (trusting the author here), but not to emphasize digital and our industries ability to bring cost effective, personalized communications is certainly concerning, if true.


By natalia c on Mar 04, 2010

While I have not read this article regarding the campaign I can only say that I work in a fully integrated advertising group. When we launch a show here the marketing mix contains print, digital, outdoor, viral, event marketing and press and publicity efforts. That way you provide a well rounded approach for our audience to become immersed in. The lines I see beginning to blur are those between digital and broadcast or on-air as rich media and video merge together. Print media, in my mind will continue to be there at least for now and in the near future.


By Emily Palmer on Mar 04, 2010

I think the key is for printers to help clients find ways to use print as one component in a complete marketing campaign.

Print can be effectively used to drive consumers to other media; it should complement and increase traffic to websites & social media sites. This is what I love about the QR codes mentioned above, and other forms of "cross media".

Steve, I love your comment that "A print ad is safe". Maybe a great marketing campaign is a combination of safe and risky, reaching each consumer with the method that works for them!


By Wayne on Mar 05, 2010

Print has its place... if you don't have a computer or can't access one. It has legal standing, traceability, can be archival.

How do we or will we value the Internet in 50 years? A friend recently spoke of the terrible crime we are committing on the next generations- we are robbing them of history. Digital is fragile - subject to retrieval failure. Anybody remember ZIP and JAZ drives, etc?

As to 2D and QR codes: where is the payoff? Unless it's a one- or two-click purchase, it's useless. Smart marketers could use it to shield their pricing from competitors, drive value to supplemntal purchases, etc. Who cares if the !#@$^% page code makes a video pop up, or manipulate a 3-d graphic with my webcam? Where is the value? It won't make me smarter or happier. In truth, it might make me feel, eh, manipulated??? I thought we were moving beyond that...


By Sandra Zoratti on Mar 05, 2010

Thanks for the differing view points and passion! I like the discussion. As a lover of print myself, I will reference the consumer studies that we have conducted that clearly and vividly record the voice of today's consumer: It's the Message, not the Medium! To paraphase, consumers say: "Give me relevant, personal, compelling messages or leave me alone; don't make your primary focus the channel or medium." As we like to say in our hallways: "Know Me or No Me." So, that's my focus: data driven customer insights that enable relevant, engaging messaging that is appealing (vs. irritating) to the consumer. Oh, and by the way, consumers also said that email is often considered junk mail and consumers prefer print over email. Regardless, don't major on that, major on the message and getting that right.


By Michael J on Mar 06, 2010

We agree and I want to put another idea on the table. Job one is to get the right message for the right person. No doubt.

But job two is to figure out exactly the right form to get the right message TO the right person. Sometimes it's web stuff. But most usually it's some kind of Print.

Exactly which kind of print depends on what the person is doing. People are interested in different things at different times.

Transpromo on printed statements is a no brainer. My 2cents is that once organizations are convinced it's safe -(screw ups can be very damaging) that goes viral.

But what is often overlooked is that print is the best physical search engine for content on the web. It is also the best way to preserve memories. eg. The viral growth of photo books.

Most overlooked is that print is the medium for compare and contrast. Compare and contrast is the crux of learning. That's the real defensible advantage in education.


By Sandra Zoratti on Mar 08, 2010

Michael J,

As usual, I love your thinking...always makes me think! Print can add value in new ways and rise to a greater acceptance and popularity -- no question in my mind -- and 2D codes, hyperlocalization (makes it relevant!) is certainly a strong approach. Further, print needs to integrate with all the channels of communications (email, mobile, etc) so that customer can choose the channel and received communications that is tailored to them, their needs, their interest. That's the hook to engagement and print needs to be part of the family that delivers that engagement...not an stand-alone sibling.
sandra z


By Michael J on Mar 08, 2010


Thanks for the kind words. I've been keeping my eye on InfoPrint for over a year. With the IBM Rico connections + Ricoh Innovations doing all that amazing work with Visual Search and QR codes it's pretty impressive to me.

For whatever it's worth if the Ricoh MFPs and the InfoPrint production machines would have a system to output PDFs either in 8 1/2 by 11 in a school or organization, and then on the production equipment for 1 to 1 communication in runs of 30 to 500 it would be pretty cool.

As I'm sure you know, my little soapbox is about the huge market just waiting to tapped in education. Especially with the high school dropout factories like Central Falls in Rhode Island.

What I think folks in the printing business are missing is that with the ed reforms coming out fo Washington the whole sector is being opened up. Legacy business practice and relationships are no longer the insurmountable barriers to entry then they have been up to now.

Sooner or later one of the globals will focus on the opportunity. At any rate, I look forward to continuing the conversation.


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