Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Local Parenting Magazine - Is it Right For You?

My wife and I started a local monthly magazine for parents in Jackson, so I knew exactly what was going on when a colleague of mine asked my opinion about advertising in the magazines like this in his area.

In his city there are multiple magazines distributed through OB/GYN offices and other locations where parents might go. They are printed once or twice per year with a focus on editorial content aimed at their target audience of parents & families.

He had been running full page ads in each under the belief that (in his words) "if we consider ourselves to be the best and we have the most stores, how do we not have the biggest ad in the best location in the book?"

But, as those of you who have been in this situation know, these ads can be expensive. Here are the three specific questions he asked:
  1. Should I continue to be in these publications?
  2. What size ads should I do? My latest opinion is not to do full page ads. I feel like stores that have full page ads seem like they don't need the business because they can afford full page ads. Is that crazy logic?
  3. Should my ads be more branding or should they call for a direct response. Should I feature a product, talk about our unique qualities, or do an ad that talks more about the customer.
Here is my response...

Local parent/family magazines are a lot like yellow pages. They are a print resource that someone might use to find information. The first question is what information are they using it to learn? And the second question is whether or not they are looking at the ads for that information, too.

Our magazine was printed monthly, picked up by parents and brought into the home. The most important element was the community calendar of kid-friendly activities for the month. The advertisers that did the best were those that advertised events and activities.

So to answer the question of what type of ads should you run, the answer is run the kind of ads that people reading these magazines want to see. If the magazine is all about pregnancy issues, run ads about comfort straps or maternity clothes. If the magazine is all about parenting topics, run ads about educational toys. In print ads, the most important element is what is relevant to the customer. You and your business are not relevant, but the products you offer or the events you're holding are relevant. Because of the lack of frequency, events (unless they are continual like "every second Tuesday") won't work in these publications, but products will. Advertise a product that is most relevant to the readers of the magazine (whether or not it is most relevant to you - the goal is to get them to read the ad first).

And yes, running two smaller ads is better than a full page. Roy Williams found that full page ads are often skipped because there is nothing relevant on that page. Half page ads actually get seen more. Since one half page ad beats one full page ad, two half page ads about two relevant products would be exponentially better than running full page ads.

But the bigger question is should you be spending this money at all? Magazines are great at reaching niche markets, but the two killers are expense and lack of frequency. The pitch that magazine sales people give you (I know, I was one) is that you "have" to be in that book to be legitimate. As you said yourself...if we consider ourselves to be the best and we have the most stores, how do we not have the biggest ad in the best location in the book?

But is that advertising or bragging? Yellow pages have made a mint off us using this same approach..."you have to be in our book or no one will see you".

If I were you, I would look at the dollars you spend there and decide if you think it is the absolute best way to spend your ad money. If the answer is yes, make some killer ads about relevant products and proceed forward. If not, decide where best to put your ad dollars and drop the magazines without looking back. Yeah, they'll hound you to get back in, using lots of guilt in the process, but you can't be everything to everybody. You have to look at it cold and calculating. You have limited ad $$. You have to use that $$ in the way that makes most sense for you and your business.

Another thought... Just because your competitors do something is not the reason you should do it. Sometimes it is better to do something completely different that they aren't doing than to try to match them step for step.

If you have ever watched a sailboat race the tactics become quite obvious. The lead boat always matches the trailing boat's moves to cover their position. But the trailing boat knows it needs to do something no one else is doing if it wants to overtake the lead boat. Are you the lead boat or the trailer?


That's what I told my fellow retailer. And now I've told you. Do you agree?

-Phil

1 comment:

  1. Nice article. Pretty accurate to our experience with a parenting magazine in the Chicago market. We did the frequency, the 1/2 page ads, ad content and images relevant for parents to identify their children at play with major brands included in the ad, and the ROI was poor and response was soft. Seems most of the ads were geared towards activities. Noticed that my competition has also dropped their advertising frequency too. Also found that our website has brought us far more customers than our yellow pages display ads ever did.

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