Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why you Should Scrap Your Print Ads

I recently wrote and article on the Tank blog covering six things I think every business should be doing this year, and one of these was "Scrap Your Print Ads". I want to expand on this a bit.

I worked (indirectly) in print for many moons, mostly for the Northcliffe and Daily Mail group. In the late 90's/early '00s we were very much aware that things were changing. Online made viewer figures and click-through entirely measurable while our print ads relied on (some may say speculative) circulation figures. It's now the general belief that circulation figures don't mean Jack.

In addition, sales of physical newspapers and magazines are in a pitiful decline. People paying for print magazines (even specialist magazines like 'Portable Restroom Operator', 'Miniature Donkey Talk' or 'Fashion Doll Quarterly' - no, really) dropped by an average of 12% in the last half of 2014.

Who actually reads ads unless it's in a very specialist publication? - bless the printed version of The Chap for it's plethora of good outlets. Those people spending their marketing budgets want to see the numbers, and justifiably so. Yes, print ads may have some brand awareness potential, but not everyone can afford a full page in The Metro and it's unlikely for most that the entire readership of any publication gives a damn about what they have to offer so a lot of that circulation figure is just going to impact off the surface.

"Print is dead."

Now, I'm damning print ads here but I'm not doing the same for PR. PR works, I've seen it. Indeed, due to valuable links being so important for SEO it's now a vital part of creative online marketing. I work for a PR company - 100% out of choice - because good quality content and strong messaging is something worth sharing (you can't make butter with a tooth pick). Review and recommendation - genuine opinion - has still got a place in print and translates seamlessly to online. Numbers may be down in print, but print is just one part of the PR mix.

So what I'm saying here is ditch your print ads and move your budget into something measurable. Something more targeted that can offer capture potential and drive real punters to your widgets. Basically, invest the same money in social ads.

"We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy."

Social ads are extremely targetable, if done right. It niggles me when I get ads showing up for me in Facebook that are sloppily targeted or clearly too general, that's just lazy work by the person setting up the ads and there's no excuse for it. I believe in the power of the semantic web and keep my data as accurate as possible to get the best out of this - I see viewing targeted ads as a necessary part of any free service. Getting it wrong gives the format a bad name and people blame the platform.

Social ads can capture an audience. They're not a one hit wonder. They offer a direct link to a point of engagement/sale or to a company Page where you can develop a relationship with future customers and turn casual browsers into advocates.

In LinkedIn we can target specific industries or people in specific companies in specific roles. Twitter can push single tweets or profiles to locations, search results, or specific profile keywords. Facebook targeting is (virtually) limitless.

Ads are so targetable it's frankly a wee bit scary. The good lady wife asked me recently (having received a £50 of free ads thing from Facebook) could I target "Women who are getting married in 2015 who might want unusual or coloured wedding dresses".

Yes, yes we can - "Women > 21-55 > engaged > into Steampunk, Gothic Music, Emilie Autumn, Cosplay, blah, blah..." See what I mean? Simples.

"This is a newspaper story, what are they doing with it?"

They can also dovetail nicely with real-word activities like adverting, PR, or marketing efforts. Think a little outside the box here. Here's a couple of examples of (arguably cunning) things I've done for clients:

A branding goal: Imagine being a hosting company using LinkedIn ads as a one month branding exercise prior to your sales team rocking up at a trade show? Hell, they don't even have to click through, just display the ad and make sure the person has heard the company name before you make contact. The cost could be buttons. Better than standing there with everyone else, handing out flyers at the entrance.

Getting folks involved: We wanted people to vote online on a political campaign so, at almost the last minute, we targeted people in a certain geographic area and pushed them to a link to "Vote in the next hour or loose your chance to change Nottingham". We timed this as people were commuting home and between 6:30 and 8pm (prime times for after dinner surfers). Engaging local people at a local level. They clicked-through in droves.

Increasing a following: One of my clients had advertising hoardings at football games across the UK. They are a debt management company and wanted to do something targeted to back up the ads. We did a campaign in two stages - mimic the ads and wish followers of the home teams good luck on match day and to commiserate or cheer after the game. People at matches are logging in to Facebook to post pics etc., and bosh, the personal touch they can relate to a company they instantly form a relationship with. Better than an ad in the match day programme.

For the same expenditure your spending on print, divert it into social ads. They're a bargain. For Facebook we charge a one off set-up fee then 15% of any ongoing spend to tweak them - which seems to be about the going rate across the business. You only pay what you can afford - if you've only got £400 then that's what you spend and you get the same targeting as if you spent £5000.

Well worth a small test, right?