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It’s too early to write the iPad advertising rules

iPad Gap adConsumption is up, dollars are down. In traditional media channels it’s the same lament time and time again: audiences are rising, but advertising continues to plummet. 

Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride, Portfolio, I.D., Vibe, Blender, Domino, Metropolitan Home – the magazine body count is mounting. Over 400 magazines folded last year, despite the fact that a survey of 1,000 consumers just publised by the CMO Council in conjunction with InfoPrint Solutions finds 92 percent of consumers still read magazines in print, and 90 percent say they want to keep it that way, e-readers be damned.

Yet at the same time, 78 percent of these consumers say more relevant and personalized content, promotions and ads would “increase their advocacy and loyalty.”

So it would seem all print publishers have to do to resuscitate a foundering business model is figure out how to personalize their (dwindling) print ad pages to the wants and needs of individual readers.

Easier said than done. 

A major flaw in this inherently flawed survey is the stated goal of personalized print advertising, and content for that matter. Loyalty to media channels is all well and good, but advertisers are looking for something very different entirely: sales, conversions, or at least some type of brand interaction. If the sole purpose of ads was to altruistically buoy publisher profits, print and broadcast media wouldn’t be in the fix they’re in.

The survey goes on to report that only 41 percent of consumers say they would respond to personalized magazine advertising on a digital reader platform, versus 63 percent who say they would opt-in for a next (unspecified) “step on engagement” through a print subscription.

These questions and responses are likely as vague to those trying to squeeze value out of the survey information as they were to the consumers responding to the questions. Moreover, they’re hardly helpful.

The CMO Council survery is pitched not as print-versus-digital, but rather as print-versus-e-reader. It makes a big assumption: that ads on e-reader platforms (read: iPad) are highly personalized. They aren’t. At least, they aren’t yet, and aren’t likely to be for some time to come.

A recent cavassing of creatives and agency types in Adweek reveals iPad ads are (at least at this extraordinarily early juncture) about reaching the early adopter demo with a wham-bam cool “print on steroids” factor.

Back to the CMO Council survey, which draws the baffling conclusion – after saying consumers want a more personal experience – that those same consumers will subsequently reject that personal experience if it’s delivered digitally. “Marketers should hold on to those e-reader advertising design budgets for a while, as consumers indicate advertising, no matter how personal will not attract attention, and may be more of a disruption in their e-reader experience.”

Conclusions to be drawn from the survey? Consumers want personalized ads and content, except when they don’t. They know what they want from the iPad, and e-readers in general, although the device hasn’t yet been on the market for a month.

What we have here is on of those frequent situations in which common sense trumps quantitative research. E-readers won’t kill print. Advertisers require ROI in any channel. And as for the future of advertising on the iPad, the jury’s out. At least until it, and similar devices, achieve some significant level of market penetration.


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