IMC 2013: Mags must cash in on change: panel on RoI

18 Feb,2013

By A Correspondent


Sam Balsara

In an atmosphere where the explosion of digital media is leading to questions about the relevance of magazines, Madison World Chairman and Managing Director Sam Balsara put forth what was probably the defining argument, when he summarized the question of magazines and their ROI.


Leading the panel discussion on the second day of the Indian Magazine Congress, on ROI from Magazine Media, Mr Balsara said there was good news as well as bad. Underlining the continuing importance of magazines, he cited a Henley Centre study which found that nine basic needs are fulfilled by media, and magazines as a class, irrespective of genre, fulfilled most of these needs.


The nine needs are split into two main classes: informational needs and cultural needs.


Information needs:

  • Instrumental: information for daily life such as weather, transport, traffic, sales, opening and closing times, etc.
  • Analysis: to understand the world, form views, have opinions.
  • Enlightenment: keeping up with the world, national and local events; being and becoming informed.
  • Self-enhancement: bettering ourselves, knowledge for its own sake or for later application; acquisition of skills.





Cultural needs:

  • Ritual: media use which frames daily routines, such as getting up, going to work, relaxing after work, accompanying domestic chores.
  • Default: absorbing media because it is there or because others within the social context are using it.
  • Relaxation: passive absorption of media, unwinding.
  • Entertainment: keeping ourselves amused, keeping others amused, having fun.
  • Escapism: frees the user mentally from the immediate constraints and/or dullness of daily life, enabling him/her to enter into new experiences vicariously.






This wide range of needs creates a demand which magazines can meet because there is such a variety of them.


Mr Balsara said that the other piece of good news is segmentation, which is sharper in magazines. This means good news for planners, as it means less waste, and they can target specific groups due to the proliferation of niche and special-interest magazines.


The third piece of good news, Mr Balsara said, is that magazines have a longer half life than most other media. This means a longer lingering effect for advertisers, in sharp contrast to television which, although it did a good job of demolishing magazines in the 1980s, has a low half life.


Moreover, from an engagement point of view reading magazines is an active activity, compared to something like watching TV which is passive. Therefore, intuitively, a combination of TV and magazines should be a potent medium for many brand plans, Mr Balsara said.


TV advertising also becomes more effective when advertisers also spend on magazines, Mr Balsara said, highlighting that overlap scheduling doubles the impact. Though TV overwhelmed magazines in the 80s, the fact is that the effectiveness of TV comes down as the level of clutter increases.


Multi-media is indeed ROI-accretive, Mr Balsara said, and those brand plans which use more than two or three channels of communication have an overall higher level of effectiveness. Multi-channel campaigns are more effective across the board than single-channel activity, he added.


On the downside, however, is the fact that magazines contribute to just 4 percent of the total advertising pie, he said, and this is lower than the global average.  Plus, he observed that though literacy in India is going up, and this helps newspaper readership, it does not seem to be benefiting magazines. On the other hand, he said, though small, there is an increasing use of magazines online which, though not robust, is growing.


Making some suggestions, Mr Balsara said that the Association of Indian Magazines should conduct studies on the impact of multi-media on different categories, to check accretive ROI. The next few years, there is going to be a strong movement for multi-media, specially from big brands. To meet the need for another medium in addition to television, magazines should be ready, he said. AIM, he said, should also develop case studies on the impact of use of magazine advertising on sales/purchase intent. His third suggestion was that magazines should exploit their content creation capabilities to open up new areas of growth.


CVL Srinivas

CVL Srinivas, CEO South Asia, GroupM, said that publishers and sellers needed to look at leveraging all the good news to convert it into revenues. Magazines are the best medium for building engagement, and score high on the trust factor, but this has not been translating into revenues, he said.


A change of mindset is required from publishers and sellers, he said; the latter need to stop selling ads and start selling engagement. Magazines can form an engagement layer over media like television which are heavy on exposure. Moreover, a lot more relevant research is required; for example, what is the interplay between magazine consumption in different formats? More category-specific research is required, he said.


Most important, magazines have to gear up to ride the digital wave, said Mr Srinivas, and had to move from being passive to becoming active communities, using digital interaction to its full advantage.


Ambika Srivastava

Ambika Srivastava, Chairperson, Zenith OptiMedia and Vivaki Exchange, said that the role of advocacy and recommendation is very big. It is clear that consumers value the content of magazines, and the role of magazines in guiding the consumer to a purchase needs to be measured. Advertisers need to look at content very carefully, she said, to go beyond the traditional formats and think about dynamic engagement.




Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman India and CEO South East Asia, Aegis Group, said research had shown the highest level of engagement in any advertising is in magazines. But the conundrum is that revenue is not coming in at a commensurate level, and this needs to be addressed. Magazine spending had grown at a rate equal to or less than the overall ad pie when it should have grown more, he said.


Magazines need to change the selling game, he said, and instead of focusing on figures and statistics, marketers need to sell engagement. Engagement is not being measured and is not being given the credit it deserves.


He also said that magazines are the masters of innovation, and need to capitalize on this advantage. Technology is the friend of the marketer in this respect, and innovation and engagement naturally lie in magazines. Innovation is what will change the dynamics of the game, he said.


Finally, considering that magazines have only 4 percent of the ad pie, individual titles need to practice coopetition, and need to get together to fight for the medium as a whole, instead of cutting each other down. Instead of fighting for the same dollar, coopetition can increase the number of dollars we are fighting for, Mr Bhasin said.


The discussion was moderated by Worldwide Media CEO Tarun Rai.


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