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Evaluating the impact of print advertising

by Michal Galin , 19.10.2015

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of presenting alongside our client, Times Media, in South Africa at their roadshow, The Future is Now. The General Manager of Group Sales and Marketing, Trevor Ormerod, discussed some of the company’s key initiatives including recent work to measure print ad effectiveness using our Starch tool.

For those not acquainted with the approach, Starch delivers impact metrics for print ads alongside insight into the readers’ involvement with the publications and its advertising. The core metrics include “noted” (did the readers remember the ads?), “associated” (did they know what brand was associated with the ad?), “read any” and “read most ratings” (measures of ad engagement), and actions taken as a result of ad exposure.

For some years, Starch scores have been used by print sales executives and media planners as part of an ongoing dialogue about the value of advertising. The data allows publishers, agencies and advertisers to answer key questions, such as “does the size of an ad make a difference on its effectiveness?”

To date for this project in South Africa we have surveyed almost 2,500 readers of Times Media newspapers and gathered information about 59 ads across three titles. Our findings are good news for the print industry – in short, print advertising penetrates consumer awareness and leads to consumer action. In a world where print is continually under threat from other media such as digital, these results show that print can be considered the “haute couture” of advertising.

Bigger is better

According to our work with Times Media, on average bigger is indeed better when it comes to print ads. Adverts that take up less than half a page were noted just over half of the time (54 percent). In comparison, full page ads were noted 71 percent of the time and multi-page displays 86 percent of the time. Additionally, almost all (96 percent) of those who remembered the multi-page ads also indicated that they engaged with the ad content. In other words, they read at least some of the content within the advert. This is evidence of positive impact for advertisers contemplating larger investments with larger sized ads.

Almost half of consumers who see an ad take action as a result

So, do consumers take action as a result of exposure to an ad? According to our research, almost one half (44 percent) of those who remember an ad take some action as a consequence. However, what consumers do as a result of noticing an ad varies: 14 percent look for further information, 14 percent have a more favorable opinion of the brand, 14 percent consider making a purchase and 12 percent visit the company’s website. While just a small number will make a purchase directly as a result of seeing an ad, these results show that print ads nudge consumers along the purchase journey.

For print ads size matters

One key result from this project so far reaffirms what print execs have long suspected – that size matter. What our South African data demonstrates so far - and this corresponds to our findings in other markets such as the United States - is that larger sized ads tend to capture the attention of readers at a higher rate.

Clearly research like this is of great benefit to the South African market, and our client Times Media agrees. So happily, we will be continuing the Starch surveys for the remainder of 2015.

By its nature, advertising will always be both an art and a science, but the introduction of some much needed empirical evidence into the effectiveness (or otherwise) of print advertising should be warmly welcomed by professionals across the industry.

For more information please contact Michal Galin at michal.galin@gfk.com.

Read the article in The Media Online