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Marketing Tuesday: Print Advertising Measurement Evolves to Include Online Responses

Online is the new offline. Like most catch phrases this one doesn’t really say anything earth-shattering; it isn’t really news that more and more things are going digital. What it does rather neatly encapsulate is that in implying the launch of a new dominant mode of operation, there are a host of implications, both online and offline, for lifestyles and business in general, and for the media industry in particular.

Online is the new offline. Like most catch phrases this one doesn’t really say anything earth-shattering; it isn’t really news that more and more things are going digital. What it does rather neatly encapsulate is that in implying the launch of a new dominant mode of operation, there are a host of implications, both online and offline, for lifestyles and business in general, and for the media industry in particular.

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Harnessing one’s audience to be the creators and well as the recipients — revolutionizing what it means to be an “audience” by consciously leveling out an age-old hierarchy — seems to be the direction in which the media industry is headed. Our own website is responding to this change. In a few weeks Fast Company will evolve to capitalize on all the capabilities that being an online company can offer, becoming a site that incorporates social networking and user generated content as heavily prominent and very integral parts of the site.

Near the vanguard of this new wave are advertisers who are increasingly responding to new trends of consumer involvement, accountability, transparency, and a focus on customized content. They are also grappling with the challenges of advertising within the rapidly evolving landscape of the print media as online media continues to develop exponentially, changing consumer expectations and responses both offline and online. It’s unsurprising that as consumers are becoming more involved and demanding, so are the advertisers…

An interesting response to this has been on the part of GfK Starch(R) Communications, a company that is well known for surveying consumers’ responses to print advertising.

Starch’s original methods have been by interviewing consumers in person about how effective they think print advertising is, but with a new service called the eStarch Ad Readership service, the company is now also gathering online responses from the readers of print publications that contain the advertisements.

The Times reports that the new information will be far more relevant and predictive about consumer attitudes and habits, measuring “whether readers of an ad recommend a product or brand to others; whether attitudes toward a brand are changed by an ad; what actions, if any, readers take as a result of seeing an ad; and how much (or little) readers of an ad are ‘favorably disposed’ toward the advertiser’s brand.”

On the one hand, print media has and will continue to have its aficionados, and print media clearly has its value, but on the other, advertisers are increasingly disposed to advertise in environments in which they can measure return on investment. The new Starch service seems to be aiming at bringing the two together: harnessing the online arena to bolster existing offline methods of surveying consumer responses to advertising.

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“Since the dawn of advertising, industry professionals have struggled to determine whether their ad campaigns drove consumers to think positively about their brands and to open their wallets… Our new metrics, more completely answer than ever before the $64,000 ROI question that advertisers have been asking since the first ad was created,” stated Philip Sawyer, Senior Vice President of GfK Starch(R) Communications.

As consumer expectations are changing and more things are moving online, advertisers are facing certain challenges with regard to advertising in print media. What’s your take on what makes for an effective advertisement in traditional print media? Is this something that can easily be measured?

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