This is How You Sell an Ad

We talk a lot about the need for publishers to take an active role in educating advertisers about the value of print. We used to almost take it granted that our ad partners understood the “why” behind their ad choices. But with the advent of digital, everything has changed, and publishers must become advocates for their ad partners.

We need to help them understand where print fits in today’s consumer funnel and the truth about print in the digital age.

This isn’t a call to bash digital; we don’t know what our ad partners know about their results with digital, and they need to make those decisions. But we can certainly help enlighten them on how digital has actually made print better, helping it be a more creative and welcoming experience for many readers.

So how do you go about educating your ad partners? What does that look like in real time? One of our printing customers shared an exchange they had with a local Gold’s Gym franchise, one of their major advertisers. It was so well handled – and with a terrific outcome – that we had to share parts of it with you.

As Tim (our customer) explains, the emails were exchanged with what used to be their biggest advertiser.

“They were on the front and back cover for about 13 years,” he explains. “Then one day the owner said they just were not getting the response they used to, in terms of ROI and that they were going to go to digital, where it seemed like the ROI was better. That was in March of 2014.”

It was a pretty devastating blow financially, not just financially but emotionally, “because having your biggest customer drop out for that reason is hard to take. It also made me very concerned for our future.”

Fast forward to last fall, and a local ad agency contacted him, saying they were trying to get one of their clients back into magazine advertising. (Yes, ad agencies are increasingly aware that ditching print altogether was probably a bad move for most of their clients.) Turns out, the client was Gold’s Gym, the same one that left them back in 2014.

A Real Life Advertising Conversation

Our customer went to work, helping Gold’s Gym make some updates to their website and working with them to create an ad that would be as effective as possible. The 2/3 page ad did really well by the advertiser’s account, so of course, Tim asked them to continue and pitched them another ad option he thought would work even better. The response was not what he’d hoped:

 We’ve got solid momentum in referrals and social media. As you can imagine, our ideal scenario, though maybe not realistic, would be to not do print media, at least not all year due to the cost. So, we may take a hiatus over next few months to see if we can still hit our numbers.

Many publishers at that point would simply say, “okay, good luck, and let me know when you’re ready.”

Not Tim.

“I am usually not this bold with customers,” he explained to me, “but I am also tired of losing business to digital, and it’s about time we start addressing the misconceptions and pointing out the strength we have.”

Tim sent back a lengthy email explaining the key benefits of print to a company like Gold’s Gym, including the importance of the trust factor, and the way print gives brands the ability to stand out in a crowded field. He also noted that several of his customers who went “digital only” a few years ago were now coming back, saying they missed the exposure that print brought them.

He made his case clearly and passionately, backing it up with facts on the current state of the online marketplace:

I was reading the other day that 90% of online content has been created since 2016, so the sheer volume of things online is making it harder and harder to break through all the noise. I wrote something about this the other day for a trade publication that our printer publishes.

Can a business gain an advantage over their competition by solely using digital advertising? The Internet has an almost infinite amount of content, is so crowded with advertising options, and the ad rates allow even a tiny business to compete on equal footing with a larger company. A staggering 90% of online content has been created since 2016. There are 455,000 tweets and 3 million Facebook posts A MINUTE. Every day more than 4 million hours of content is uploaded to YouTube and 269 billion emails are sent. Everyone and their brother has a blog, a Facebook page, and is posting, posting, posting or selling something. 

As a business, how do you even begin to stand out, let alone dominate a space like that? How do you present yourself as a brand that is head and shoulders above the competition? The answer is you really can’t.

The reply from his advertiser blew him away:

We 100% agree with you. We have tried very diligently with our gym business to go 100% digital and it just doesn’t work. I believe for the reasons you cite. Direct mail is painfully expensive, yet we have returned to that media, albeit in reduced quantities, over the last several months. After analyzing the [latest campaign] ad results and assigning weight for the non-measurable results, we believe it’s the right decision to continue. You are always helpful and we know you have your customers’ best interests in mind to achieve the most effective advertising for us, which of course is a win-win.  

So, we will continue with the ad.  

And how does this make Tim feel? “I really feel like the tide is turning against digital and in favor of print.”

There is huge value in print for our advertisers. And it is up to us to help them understand and see that, in a way that lets them know we have their best interests at heart. This, my friends, is how you sell an ad.