The Non-trackable Print Ad Myth … Busted

Perfectly targeted and trackable ads … this was the promise of internet advertising, and the mantra turned into a drumbeat for marketers looking for an easier way to demonstrate performance. The common story was print ads aren’t trackable, so there’s no way to prove their worth, while digital can be tracked and verified easily.

(Sidebar here – while it’s true digital metrics are easy to track, let’s be honest about how massive fraud, waste and dodgy metrics have cluttered up any true understanding of the real value of a digital ad. Okay, back to our story.)

The reality is, print ads are and always have been trackable; any media channel that accepts advertiser dollars must have a way to show results, and print is no exception. But after 20-some years of KPIs and click-based analytics, it can be hard to shift gears and rethink print metrics.

Thankfully Ryan Dohrn, founder of Brain Swell Media, has our backs.

“PRINT IS TRACKABLE!” Dohrn writes in Niche Publishing Network. “The real question is if the advertiser will do what is required to track the various ad components? Or, are you as a salesperson willing to step in and do the work to increase the ROI impact for your clients?”

Dohrn offers eight tips to maximize tracking, from running vanity URLs to track responses, to getting the right person to answer the phone and track incoming calls.

“Call tracking numbers have been around for years. Sure, phone volume is way down these days, but tracking your calls from print ads is super easy. Companies like can offer you this service for as low as $30 per month,” he explains. “If you truly want to know who is calling from your print ad, put your cell number in the ad. Why not? Are you afraid you will get calls?”

He suggests you can even use Google Analytics to track when your print campaign starts and ends, as a good print campaign is a solid driver of traffic to your site and you should see a  measurable uptick.

Tuck this article into your sales quiver when those potential advertisers tell you that tracking is hard. Dorhn’s even create specific instructions on how to implement these ideas for maximum tracking success.

As the pendulum swings away from a digital-only presence for brands, it’s on the print industry to help make it easier for marketers to track the significant ROI they’ll realize in print. Thanks, Mr. Dohrn, for this excellent resource.