Media companies need to better educate advertisers and agencies on the power of print

By Shelley Seale


Austin, Texas, USA


A long-standing adage in the advertising world is that repeated exposure to a brand or message will increase the audience’s favourable disposition towards that brand — or at least awareness of it.

But is the opposite also true? Does a lack of exposure to an advertising message mean the audience will like that brand less?

This was the question posed by Ulbe Jelluma, managing director in Europe for Print Power, at a recent Webinar for INMA members.

“Some channels, particularly print media, lack the attention from advertising and media professionals, and from marketers — which might explain the lack of attention and traction of these channels from specific groups,” Jelluma said.

Jelluma believes this is one of the most important challenges facing print media today.

Ulbe Jelluma of Print Power presented to INMA members on the strength of print advertising.
Ulbe Jelluma of Print Power presented to INMA members on the strength of print advertising.

Print Power is an initiative built to address that very challenge and to show that advertising in print media can amplify the impact of other channels and increase the overall effectiveness of campaigns.

“We all know that print newspapers are going through challenging times. Publishers are shifting their revenue streams, caused by major changes in consumer media consumption behaviour,” Jelluma said.

Despite this trend, he still strongly believes news media organisations do still have a powerful argument to convince advertisers of the power of print newspapers and their strong benefits.

Jelluma pointed out two strong trends of the past year-plus of the COVID pandemic that reinforce the strength of print:

  1. The huge resurgence of book reading — not just on its own, but also a major interest in the public to go back and read books that they first saw as a movie or series, such as Bridgerton and The Queens Gambit.
  2. The high sales of printed greeting cards, which have been double and even triple their pre-pandemic numbers.

“There is immense love for print,” Jelluma said. 

Consumer behaviour is changing, however, as it has constantly throughout time — including media consumption. However, the changes in the last 10 to 20 years are the result of a combination of several factors:

  • A change of generations.

  • The ability of individuals to produce their own version of the news.

  • The digital revolution.

  • Advertisers and marketers still think in terms of silos.

“These factors together have a major impact on media consumption,” Jelluma said. He went on to look deeper into each of these four factors.

Generation switch

From Baby Boomers and Generation X to Generations Y and Z, many differences characterise the consumer behaviour of these different age groups. However, what is different today is the convergence of the new generations (Y and Z) with new, ground-breaking technologies.

“The access to the Internet and the launch of the iPhone are probably the most important ones,” Jelluma pointed out. “The new generations are adopting these technologies very fast, and they also display a radically different behaviour than older generations.”

The important thing to realise is that this is true not only of consumers but of the marketing and advertising professionals as well. Today’s professionals age 40 or under making those ad buying decisions grew up in the digital world, as digital natives — and this influences their professional behaviour in advertising.

“They prefer the medium they’re using — the digital media.”

We make our own truth

Each of our individual brains construct their own story, or reality, based on what it sees, hears, and experiences. This is well-illustrated by a 1999 video by Daniel J. Simons about selective attention, in which the viewer is asked to count basketball passes. Most viewers are so intent on this task they don’t even notice the gorilla that walks through the game.

This is attributed to the fact that human expectations greatly influence our perception: what we expect to see, we see, and vice versa. Not only that, but our past memories also change with new information and knowledge, so memory is in fact selective.

Moreover, people have a tendency to look for information, or reality, that supports beliefs they already hold or goals they want to achieve. Jelluma called these “bubbles” or “echo chambers,” and said people need to put more effort into knowing well-founded facts and backgrounds. 

In today’s world, opinions are presented as “alternate facts” and often given the same weight as actual facts or truth. Politicians and spin doctors use reframing techniques to skew reality, and people don’t always recognise these. 

“We have a tendency to believe that the first things that come to our mind are also more present in reality,” he said. “That is especially relevant for the presentation today. Because if we have print media and newspapers not top of mind, it will not come as quickly to mind as we would like it to.”

This affects the return on print advertising. Jelluma shared the top drivers of advertising profitability, such as brand size, budget, geography, and product. For example, evidence shows brand size has a tremendous importance for ad profitability — marketers, however, hold the impression or opinion that brand size is much less relevant than it actually is. 

“What we see here is an immense gap between perception and reality in our own industry,” Jelluma said. 

The research firm Ebiquity took a look at 10 different media platforms in the U.K. and their overall performance ranking. It found, however, that the perception of the performance of each of these platforms was largely wrong — but those faulty perceptions determine advertising buys.

Television brought the highest performance in both perception and reality — however, the perception is that online video is the second-best performing media platform, when in reality it is second to last, performing only slightly better than online display ads.

Marketers and advertisers have a distorted perception on what media is the best performing.
Marketers and advertisers have a distorted perception on what media is the best performing.

When it comes to newspapers, they are the third best-performing, yet in perception they are only ranked eighth. 

“So what do you think they actually do, in terms of spending money on media?” Jelluma asked. The obvious answer is that advertisers and marketers put more of their budgets into the platforms they perceive to do better, possibly ignoring print media and newspapers.

What can news media publishers do about this? 

“If we want to change our perception — and we have to, as the [research] shows — then we have to be more visible. We need to become more physical on the radar of these professionals.”

Digitalisation and data

The digital era has provided great benefits for the news media industry— from insights and planning to automation and evaluation — and is continuing to grow. A wide variety of martech solutions are available in the marketplace.

“Martech is taking a more important role in advertising and marketing,” Jelluma said. “That has also a downside. Having so much data on people, and having the possibility for doing data mining, we might touch upon privacy [issues].”

Target knew a teen girl was pregnant before her family, due to data.
Target knew a teen girl was pregnant before her family, due to data.

He also pointed out that about five years ago, Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder of WPP advertising group, was a strong defender of print newspapers and their importance in the advertising mix. However, by April 2021 Sorrell was advocating for a complete digital strategy.

“He stands for the silo thinking in advertising,” Jelluma said. “He stands in the way of cross-media strategies. Obviously online is huge … but he stands in the way of strategies that involve other than online.”

Jelluma, rather, embraces a unison strategy based on five criteria for correctly aligning all media for optimal results:

  • Buying process.

  • Media choice.

  • Creativity.

  • Scheduling time.

  • Data.

“Obviously we need to have integrated media research and consumption research,” he said. “Today most of the media research is done in silos as well. It’s very hard to put all of those results together.”

Nationaal Media Onderzoek (NMO) in the Netherlands is doing this, integrating all the different advertising channels.

“I believe an integrated plan will show the power of newspapers and magazines,” Jelluma said.

Several key trends are in the future of print newpaper and media advertising.
Several key trends are in the future of print newpaper and media advertising.

The future of print advertising

Jelluma discussed three trends he believes will be a large part of print media advertising going into the future.

  • Attention to CO2 emissions. Ad Net Zero is an example of an initiative of 38 advertising agencies, advertisers, Facebook, Google, Royal Mail, and various trade associations, with a goal to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. 

  • Print’s benefit of trust. This trust factor skyrockets when an advertising message appears in two or more news brand platforms than a single one — from 20% to 56%. What’s more, advertisers understand the importance of this consumer trust and translate it into monetary results.

  • Use creativity and innovation. Print is also undergoing a tech revolution, from paper electronics using NFC to the Fireproof Newspaper.

The Fireproof Newspaper is an example of tech innovation within print.
The Fireproof Newspaper is an example of tech innovation within print.

“There is a lot of value in print and in newspapers,” Jelluma said in conclusion. “With this better understanding of how marketers and advertisers operate and how they think, we can have a better insight to what we need to do to convince them of the continued strength of newspapers and print media.”

About Shelley Seale

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