Bob Wootton / Founder at Deconstruction Consulting

Trust, quality of attention and brands

Some say we’ve never had it better. More choice, more channels, better access, even self-serve ad creation and media buying in some.

But others are concerned that despite this, favour for and trust in advertising is in steady decline. It’s almost as if we’re using the new toys enthusiastically, but not necessarily in the right way. Perhaps in part that’s because we’ve been too swift to welcome the newcomers, targeted channels which can protest and quantify their effect, but all too often by attributing them to the last click. Unpicking the customer journey through all its stages so we can influence it at each has always been challenging, and still is.

True, we can compare what we spent with what we made in the short term, so we know sooner and better than ever if it worked, at least superficially. But we still have much less idea of how. Our industry behaviours follow this.Despite being able to cap the number of times we reach a potential customer, much of this close targeting either comes across as:

  • creepy (when a customer starts to get lots of ad messages about something that we and our tech has imputed they might be interested in)
  • or plain irritating (when we and our tech get it wrong or don’t constrain frequency or when they have already made a purchase, even when it’s in the same online channel as the media exist).

Along with unfortunate narratives about fake news, little wonder that we have issues around favour and trust.

In truth, we need much more and better understanding of attention to our messages in all its forms. Especially when you consider the obvious - that different media reach and involve people in different ways.

There’s no better example of this than Magazines. Observation, intuition and successive studies have shown magazines are very much invited and welcomed into people’s lives.

Reading them is highly personal, often solitary, almost private ‘me time’ and is consequently sometimes quite concentrated and prolonged. It’s even positive for wellbeing. In short, a supremely powerful and captive moment in which to influence and persuade.

Yet despite this, we lack sufficient hard data on the quality of this attention and emotional connection and how the audience’s receptivity converts into attention to advertising messages to drive these insights home commercially often enough.

The BMW brand in the UK was built on constant advertising in magazines, including Sunday newspaper supplements, with great attention given to a consistent brand architecture, tone and feel which meant that every ad was informed by and amplified its predecessors.

BMW only ventured beyond - into newspapers for tactical reasons and onto TV for specific launch stunts - for some years. The marque only started to use TV more consistently several years after extending its range to include more affordable models - long after its extremely successful brand had already been built.

Some years later, Porsche followed suit. Bentley still does today.

The Sharwood’s brand had ambition across several national cuisines which exceeded its financial resources. Again, a concerted and consistent approach through magazines was the solution and once again, this drove the brand to real business success. (Only when ambient products with much shorter shelf lives were introduced was TV support felt necessary).

There are many such stories - I pick these vintage gems simply because I was closely involved and because they have stood the test of time.

The industry’s own studies show that magazines are proven to deliver strong return on investment as well as other hard business metrics like customer acquisition and market share and margin protection. Work by the IPA and other media bodies like Thinkbox [Profit Ability] and Radiocentre [Re-Evaluating Media] also show the strong returns magazines deliver. Nielsen in the US adds further weight.

Kantar & Ofcom [‘Trust in News’, 2018, Kantar; 'News Consumption in the UK’, 2018, Ofcom] have shown that printed magazines are the most trusted source for news – ahead of all other channels. Recent work by Mediacom and Magnetic [A Matter of Trust] showed that in other areas such as fashion, motoring, food and home interiors, magazine content is more trusted than news brands and social media.

Meanwhile, people are spending more time and more money on their passions. From fashion to food, football to film, consumers are spending more time and money on the interests that are important to them.

Magazines operate in a highly-competitive market and have to be strong brands themselves to compete. But unlike many other brands which evolve more slowly, they must constantly tailor their ‘recipes’ and refresh their ingredients. They thus provide a very hospitable – and safe - environment in which to build brands through advertising which readers consider integral to the experience. Large or small, mass or niche, I’ve always been convinced that you can build and develop brands successfully in magazines, off- and online. And that’s before you even consider how cost-effectively they can do this.

As and when magazine brands can quantify what we all feel and believe already, further commercial success will follow.

Bring it on.