Time to dig deeper into Dutch ROI study showing print’s leading role


More and more advertisers demand a good return on investment (ROI) evaluation of their media budget. The most solid analysis is achieved by comparing media investment with the incremental sales.

Confident about their advertising impact, the Dutch news media published the top-level results of its ROI project. Based on a wide range of media campaigns, print media appeared to have the best ROI. With €1.20 of incremental sales per spent euro, print media even surpassed bannering and TV advertising.

Great buzz: This publication has led to great buzz among media owners all over the world. But now, two months later, it’s time to add some nuances to the conversation and deliver more insights, as analysis of performance data also makes it possible to find some useful leads to optimise the (news) media usage.

In the media campaigns analysed by GfK Research, ROI improvements of up to 30% were reported just by optimising the contacts of chosen media channels. So, without changing the budget, these advertisers are able to boost their ROI considerably.

Below you’ll find some sense-making recommendations per media channel.

Cross media: The overall conclusion that print beats all other channels is too simplistic. For an impactful campaign, you mostly need several media, in the right balance. Only then will you profit from the synergy of different touchpoints.

Trading in all audio-visual media for print would make the news media happy for a few months, but would not be profitable for everyone in the long run. That’s because nothing can beat a well-blended, cross-media campaign.

This might represent an opportunity for news media to offer a well-balanced mixture of newsprint, magazines, news radio and (online) televsion – depending on what their media houses have to offer.

Print: GfK’s study made one thing very clear: Print deserves a prominent role in the media mix. Whether it is a sales campaign or branding, a good print ad will lead to profitable ROI. The first recommendation is to choose the right frequency.

Newspaper ads often are considered one shots to boost short-term sales or kick off a branding campaign. The ROI project points out, however, that ROI will grow with the frequency. Print ads are cut off while the effectiveness is still growing. Repetition is a good idea; but what is the optimum?    

The study makes a distinction for full-pagers and smaller ads. The smaller ads deliver better ROI (150), but need more frequency than a larger ad. For a campaign that runs a few weeks, seven insertions seem to be the optimum. The equivalent in ROI of full-pagers would be four insertions. With this frequency, the ROI is near its peak.

Smaller formats appear to deliver the most value for the money. On the other hand, large formats would give more space for branding and expressing market leadership. These are other important  motives than ROI to consider when choosing a full-page advertisement.

Another trend in print campaigning is to use this channel only for call to action and sales promotion. Of course, print can drive up sales (in this study, ROI on average was 140), but who could have imagined that even branding delivers an ROI of 90?

And this return is even calculated on gross tariffs and on short notice. GfK estimates that another 90 will be earned in the months after the campaigns, just because branding is an investment in future sales.

Compared to the usual branding through TV commercials, newsprint delivered 50% more ROI in branding campaigns. So the advice is clear: Don’t leave out the option of print for branding advertising.

Insights about other media

Magazines appeared to be the dark horse in the study. With an ROI of 130, this media channel has performed best. The counter side is that magazines only manage to realise modest contacts and reach.

But the lesson is clear: The selectivity in audience and fitting content of magazines are very suitable for supporting multi-media campaigns.

Radio: With an overall ROI of 90, radio had an average score. But among the 10 observed campaigns, an ROI of 270 ROI also was measured. Analysing the best radio spots delivers clear insights.

The best radio spots appeared to contain a clear and simple message and good timing. Keep your message straight and simple. A well-produced radio spot with a straightforward message can be very profitable, knowing that this channel has a very low cost per 1,000.

Online banners: Low costs are also the trump of online banners. The low cost – and not the impressive impact – is responsible for an above-average ROI (110). The use of a frequency cap appeared to be essential.

The challenge is to widen the reach and not overfeed the same consumers over and over again with annoying banners. Luckily, modern techniques like programmatic advertising can lead to better targeting, more relevance, and better proportion.

Television: Finally, why was ROI on TV spots  so modest (60)? The publication of the study in February has led to many discussions with media agencies and TV promoters. They objected validly that other goals in the observed campaigns might have prevailed; think of branding (instead of sales response) and longer-term objectives.

When advertisers want to act as market leaders, they have to choose large-scale media exposure and eye-catching advertising.

But on the whole, the report found an abundant number of impressions of TV spots, on average 12 per campaign, with peaks toward 25. In addition to a profound belief in the effectiveness of TV, the low Dutch GRP-price might have been leading.

The study pointed out that, even for a cheap way of campaigning, pennywise might be pound foolish. Luckily, GfK is able to present a rule of thumb that an estimated nine impressions is the more efficient optimum.

To be continued...

The publication of the results has caused a profound discussion about the effectiveness of different media channels. From Finland to the Philippines and from the United States to Eastern Europe, many media professionals wanted to learn about this meta study in-depth.

With this global debate, and its follow-up with useful insights, these first dozen studies have had a tremendous ROI. Hopefully, this project will get followed up elsewhere soon. We might be able to learn more about the effectiveness of our precious news media.

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