Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Mar-Apr 2016

Back to black

Published in Mar-Apr 2016
Why print is here to stay.

In February 2016, the American Magazine Media Conference put their money where their mouth is in an unprecedented announcement: They will be offering a money or space back guarantee thanks to the findings of a neuroscience-backed study conducted by Millward Brown – an authority in the assessment of advertising impact – on the necessity of print in a multi-channel world. The results are in: print is here to stay, for reasons you have probably known all along.

It’s obvious that clients today are hooked to big data. This has resulted in the growth of digital’s revenue at print’s expense. After all, digital is cool, exciting and new. It attracts ever larger shares of budgets. So much so that even as print have digitised and reworked their businesses to try to recapture some digital ad spend, they have struggled – to the point of bankruptcy – to make up for the shortfall.

Yet, there is a paradox. Even as print fights for ad spend, magazine media (in print format) is consistently performing well in the quantitative market mix models that those same advertisers commission to gauge the impact of their ad spend. In fact, similar research so far proves that magazines deliver strong advertiser ROI even when digital and other media are in the mix. One such study is Millward Brown’s White Paper for the Association of Magazine Media (MPA) that asks, “What can neuroscience tell us about why print magazine advertising works?”


If future research supports this evidence, it’s time for advertisers to think about entirely replacing print exposures with digital. Not only are they disregarding consumer demand for print, they are also ignoring print’s superior and lasting ability to deliver a reading experience that supports comprehension, retention and connection with their brand message.


The report examined nearly 100 ad effectiveness studies that the advertisers themselves had originally commissioned and found that print advertising results in the greatest increase in persuasion metrics – namely, trusted content, consumer engagement, brand favourability and purchase intent – compared to other platforms. Moreover, print magazines perform well against important advertiser KPIs such as ad recall, persuasion, brand consideration, and purchase intention, right down to actual purchase — even when there is a lot of noise from other media.

The report further proved that when advertisers used print together with other platforms, “they were most successful in raising outcome metrics, leading to the conclusion that digital platforms work best when they are connected to powerful traditional media, such as print.” If this isn’t enough, the report listed three more reasons to reflect why print advertising is a worthy investment: specifically, print ads drive higher awareness and recall; print increases ad effectiveness across platforms; and, most importantly, publishers can now guarantee that print ads generate increased sales and positive return on idea/investment. That’s the money back part.

The report detailed which media combinations worked best in raising outcome metrics. In most cases, a Print+Online+TV combination was most effective. Among two-medium combinations, the old world combo of Print+TV ruled the roost; indeed, this combination produced deltas that were twice as large as those for the TV+Online. Campaigns combining Print+Online also achieved significant lifts in ad effectiveness, beyond what a single platform would achieve.

But these studies don’t clarify why print continues to be effective even when ad messages from other media, on other platforms, have saturated print’s audience? Could it be, the White Paper asks, because of print-on-paper’s continuing importance as a delivery vehicle? Perhaps it has more credibility and engages with consumers at a more receptive mood moment? Or, as cognitive neuroscience tells us, the brain processes print-on-paper more actively and shows how reading offline involves a suite of processes that sequentially activate different parts of the brain which involve not only visual, but also cognitive, affective and linguistic processes?

Whatever it is, print-on-paper remains the unique province of magazine and newspaper brands and direct mail. Among the media usually included in the market mix model studies (TV, web, magazine media, radio), only magazine media offer a paper-based delivery vehicle. Perhaps ad messages delivered through this venerable platform offer something uniquely valuable, and have an impact on consumers that perseveres even in the digital age?

If future research supports this evidence, it’s time for advertisers to think about entirely replacing print exposures with digital. Not only are they disregarding consumer demand for print, they are also ignoring print’s superior and lasting ability to deliver a reading experience that supports comprehension, retention and connection with their brand message.

That alone seems worthy of being inked.

Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE and Creative Director, The D’Hamidi Partnership.