Is Print Advertising Dead? Measure the Results.

By Chris KnipperAug 6 /2009

Is print advertising dead?  Measure the results. As a marketing strategist I am faced with this question on a weekly, if not daily basis.  Should you be adjusting your marketing mix and putting more of your marketing budget into Internet advertising and less into print?

After 18 years of industry experience, the last thing I want to hear from our clients is --- “I really don’t think that ad you just ran for us generated any new business”.  That is always a humbling experience and a sign that it is time to investigate a new marketing mix.

And what exactly is Internet advertising?

Ask a handful of people in the industry that question and you will get variations in response such as - web site banners ads, blogs, search engine optimization, email marketing, social networking, You Tube videos, etc.  Here at Kuno Creative we try to take an integrated approach now commonly referred to as Inbound Marketing.  All these terms are pretty much consistent with the Wikipedia definition.   But for a busy marketing director or business owner, it’s information overload and it changes by the minute.  So what is the answer?  My response is --- it depends.  It depends on how you plan to measure the results.  And it depends on your willingness to invest the amount of time and effort necessary to make your Inbound Marketing a success.  And ironically, the main competition to print advertising - Internet advertising - often presents opportunities to measure these results.

No matter how big or small your business may be, you have to have a strategy to measure your marketing.  No one gets a free pass and escapes paying these dues.  Even Google last month decided to discontinue its little-known, “Print Ads” program that was an early and heavily-promoted example of Google's ambitions to broker offline ads using the same auction system that has proven to be so effective in their online search advertising.  They measured the results and it didn’t work.  But that doesn’t mean they are abandoning print.  Involved with over 800 newspapers, magazines and other print advertising venues, Google Print Ads Director Spencer Spinnell in a recent blog said Google will continue to work with newspaper publishers to grow and monetize their online audiences.

Is it possible to measure the results of every type of ad that goes in a newspaper?  Some ads are general branding-type ads while other ads have a clear call to action – visit this web site, call this phone number, bring in this coupon, etc.  To me, measuring the results depends on the type of ad.  What we really should be measuring is the progress we are making across several categories.  And this begins with defining what the goals and milestones of your marketing are in the short and long-term so you can create the categories to begin with.  This is where the time and effort come in.

It is truly sad how many small to medium-sized business owners will have a bad month or quarter, and then pick up the phone and call their local newspaper and/or ad agency and say “I need to get something in the paper right away, business is slow”.   In many instances what is not being planned for are the finer details, such as the marketing strategy and the process of measurement. 

Does the ad refer to an out-of-date web page?  Does the ad take into consideration the current economic climate or the mind-set our your target audience?  Is that ad consistent with your goals and milestones in both the short and long-term?    Without considering these other variables, simply running an ad that includes your business name, and states that you will be having a major sale until next Friday will most likely be setting yourself up for disappointment.


On a positive note, I recently attended an annual shareholders meeting for one our clients in the financial sector, and I was pleased to hear how they bucked the trend of the dire economic climate and increased assets, equity loans, auto loans, and made a profit.  Of course, I’d like to think it was because the quality of the creative and strategic services we have been providing them with over the past three years, but I’d rather credit their leadership and the fact that they have a sound business model and marketing strategy.  I bring this up to make the point that most of the marketing we did for them was still in print and outdoor.  It’s working.  

So, do I think print is dead?  The answer is No.  We still do numerous, successful print advertising campaigns each month.  I hope to continuously share examples of how we integrate print and Internet advertising for some of our clients here in this blog and welcome questions, input and examples of similar scenarios.

The Author

Chris Knipper

Chris founded Kuno in 2000 as a traditional marketing and branding agency and has since grown it into a leading global digital marketing agency that’s helped hundreds of companies accelerate their growth. With a background in sales, marketing and technology, Chris is on the frontline of creativity, pushing the limits of what our clients can achieve.