To know how to steal advertisers from magazines you have to understand how magazines work.
A little history is in order, I used to be the designer and director of a highly successful design, manufacturing and distribution company (Intimidation) out of London during the nineties. One of the most interesting aspects of the business was marketing. It was the one part where you really had to deal with the entire industry, know what was going on, and be at the center of the controversy in order to get the most bang for your bucks (the latter seemed to come naturally).
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
So I’m this tiny rogue bean in an industrial sized tin of Heinz being baked, the most important thing I had going for me was a unique product, lots of new killer features and plenty to distinguish me from the ‘competition’ which in my case amounted to a ‘one size fits all’ bunch of losers, so that part was easy.
As an advertiser with a very limited budget, I had to maximize the return, I had to know precisely where the advertising would work and how to get it at rates that my competitors would die for. So I made some bold decisions from day one, here was my manifesto in a nutshell.
1) Always do double page spreads,
- you get the best rates;
- they have an impact like none other;
- they intimidate the competition;
- they cannot be ignored.
2) Forget the rate card,
- Call up on p-day (publishing deadline) and offer them silly prices for a DPS, if the rate card said 1k per page, offer them 800UKP Max for a DPS.
- Have a real top class advert,
- advertise only one product,
- the message had to be crystal clear.
- The product had to almost leap out of the page so that potential buyers could just about grab it (if not pin it to their wall).
- The advert had to be full on war, with a simple but extremely effective caption. To give an example one of our captions was ‘Aural Sex’ (The product was a DJ Mixer BTW). When you get girls phoning up asking you for more information about aural sex you know your on to a good thing.
So what can blogs learn from magazines about advertising and how to poach it away from the mainstream publications. This diatribe rant is to both sides, advertisers and bloggers, as both need to understand what it takes to be effective from each others perspective.
Advertisers where are you at?
1) The current blogging industry is like an early magazine industry, In my sector if you looked at the advertising right at the beginning, shops, manufactures, etc. would make these really crappy adverts. They were making them themselves I’m sure. Towards the end the industry had evolved and everyone was trying to make classy adverts. This really reminds me of the adverts online at the moment, they are ineffective because they are utterly crap. Advertisers you have to put as much effort into the look of your advert as you do into your products.
2) Advertising does not work unless it’s unavoidable, you cannot hope to get anything much out of a 100px *100px box on the top right of a page of editorial. You have to buy the whole page. Bloggers you have to allow advertisers to somehow have a double page spread in between editorial.
3) Advertisers, if your advert is crap, it’s like some ugly thing trying to chat up a beauty. It won’t go down and it will get you a slap. Make sure that advert is funny, on target, has a simple focus and gets to the point in 20 seconds. If you fill the page with ton’s of products and other shit, then your spamming me with your ugliness and you’re going to get a slap. ONE Product, ONE caption, and make it funky.
Bloggers, how do you find advertisers?
1) In the magazine world, it was simple, you placed an advert in one magazine and every other magazine on the planet would phone you to offer you a special rate. You look about at who’s advertising and who’s doing it right, then you get on the blower and you give it away if need be to get them on board. But what ever you do, don’t let them put up a shit advert – it has to be classy, else they will tar you with their brush.
2) When you have one, next phone call is to his competitor, “Hi, we have so and so advertising, only naturally you would want to have a presence too”. These are the main players that are your bread and butter.
3) You wont be wooing any advertising unless you give them some editorial as well, despite what the likes of the “Class A” blogs claim, all industries and human psychology is warped in this way. Advertisers get treated well as do magazines. The main reason being, advertising is so ineffective in comparison to a good review (or even bad review sometimes). People could care less about an advert but will read a review, (But balance, knowledge, understanding, and informed opinion is essential if it’s to be a bad review. Don’t fall into the trap of writing crap just to please advertisers – tell it how it is, but don’t be ‘high and mighty’ when doing so). This is a common mistake that needs greater analysis than I can provide here. Reviewers that have no clue about the technology they are discussing, generally think they are smart when they say it’s crap, but if you don’t back up your claims by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the market, the product, the price, and all the other factors that make or break products, then you will no doubt soon be putting your blog out of business NO JOKE!
4) Other perks of the reviewers job. For example, you send a product for review in the electronic sector, you don’t expect it back. It’s a gift, plan and simple. Reviewers get invites to great parties, they get wooed with all sorts of little offers. The market in general is so desperate to get editorial that the plain and simple fact is that it’s all going on, like it or lump it. Greasing the wheels IS a part of all these industries. Bloggers will have to get used to this.
5) Forget email communication. This is a business that only works face to face or on the phone, but the all important initial meeting is a must. Send in a cute intellectual like Sarah Meyers and you WILL have a sale.
The natural ebb and flow of a timed release printed publication…
One of the changes that blogging has made to the world is that now days there’s no copy deadlines. No release dates just a constant and continual outpouring of information. From an advertising point of view, I’m not sure this is a good business model. How do you change or rotate advertisers on a weekly bases and keep them fresh. It’s all competition after all. One sees another and wants next weeks slot. They feed each others desire. Plus there is the anticipation and change of the weekly, by weekly, or monthly cycle. I would suggest bloggers try experiments with timed releases (idea for a WordPress plugin).
Recognition and saturation.
Advertisers, in order to be effective, you cannot simply run the same advert week in week out, each advert has to be as fresh as the page it is published on.
In summery there is a lot that has to evolve for the blogging community to woo real revenue away from printed media. But the points laid out here will hopefully give both sides an understanding of the print media’s success, and hopefully spur some to make the changes that will start creating real value for all involved.
UPDATE: During the night the gods gave me a solution to the DPS problem, thus this morning I set up a web site and coded an open source widget, which I believe provides advertisers with an online version of the DPS (advert that works), and blogs a method to create this.
I was asked to include an example of the ‘aural sex’ advert but alas that is not to be found today. However, I have included another of my adverts which expresses the essence of my manifesto. Please forgive the quality as it’s a photo taken from a magazine and is not great.
So here is the widget mentioned, click on it once to open it and a second time to take you to the next article of this blog.
Steven’s next article will be titled ‘The art of the bad review’
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