The online media industry has set high standards; there is not a single media channel that delivers more data at the end of an advertising campaign than an online one, with the average campaign generating enough raw data to keep a research department busy for days. Ignoring the fact that this level of focus can lead to short sighted conclusions, it does mean the advertiser knows exactly what their investment has brought them.

Today’s stormy economic climate has increased the demand for a demonstration of ROI. This, combined with ever decreasing budgets means advertisers have to get the most out of their spend. These changing times mean that circulation figures or media reach is no longer sufficient for newsmedia, advertisers feel the need to quantify the awareness of their advert, and want proof of the ad’s impact or the generated shopper traffic.

In The Netherlands, where audience measurement is organised in Joint Industry Committees, the media houses, advertisers and media agencies have recognised this challenge. Currently the print survey NOM Media is looking at ways to make the step from media reach towards advertising reach. Selecting the right methodology is a big challenge even for an institute with decades of experience, with different options varying from a Scandinavian model to the American Starch-method.

One of the most interesting aspects here is the level to which advertising reach has to be reported. Does one choose the reach of a newspaper page or is ad recognition the right metric?

My prediction is the reach of a newspaper spread will form the best currency. According to this standard newsmedia will supply “eyeballs on media space” what means impressions from engaged readers. It is up to the creative agencies to catch the eye and activate the reader’s brain. Although it is a classic situation, it leads to a clear division of responsibilities.

Nonetheless news media should try to help the advertisers with this challenge. Recent Dutch media research shows that media companies can help to boost advertising ROI. By applying the learnings from this study, and by creating a favourable design, the ROI of a newspaper advertisement can be raised by 25%.

The research, based on a study from the page design of “Reformatorisch Dagblad,” was nominated for an Esomar Effectiveness award. The accompanying paper written by Cebuco and research company Validators, describes 4 ways to advertise that will significantly improve ad effectiveness.

Not only do the findings give recommendations about usual variables such as format (preferably at least 1/8 page) and position (bottom right corner), but also new and surprising recommendations (e.g. advertising space next to news headings appears to generate 33% more attention from the readers).

So it appears that journalistic and commercial content can benefit each other by working more closely together. This also appears to be the case with the layout of a newspaper page. It is remarkable that there is an increase in the amount of time spent reading editorial simply by adding more adverts to a page. In this situation advertising assists the journalistic content, as mixed pages get more attention than news content only.

At the other end of the scale only having adverts on a page drops the attention of readers significantly. The best solution for all concerned is when good page design and commerce meet in the right amounts.

These are remarkable findings in themselves, however, the biggest learning of the study maybe the study itself.

Reformatorisch Dagblad, a small but ambitious niche paper commissioned Validators, an innovative research agency, to track the page design with the most favourable advertising ROI. For this study a new research methodology was developed combing an intelligent mix of passive research (eyetracking) and questionnaires. The learnings from these pioneers are only just at a starting point, as the industry is moving ahead and develop more groundbreaking methodologies.

But perhaps just as importantly, this study also teaches us to join the advertisers to strive for useful KPI’s for ROI. This way we create tailor made solutions, avoiding a thoughtless but understandable run towards media with the false security of endless data.

_________________________________________________________________  The details of the research above can be found in this Esomar paper.