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Measurability of impact remains the biggest challenge in print media

For many years now, marketers have wondered if print is dead. So how is print evolving and adapting to keep up with the times and prove its relevance to a new audience in the digital age? The Drum, in partnership with Print Power, and industry experts discussed these issues at the Maison de la Communication.

The illustrious group of industry experts were welcomed by French Aquitaine region president, Alain Rousset.

Participants included Eric Trousset, development manager for La Poste’s Media BU; Nathalie D’Isanto, mail advertising director at La Poste; Véronique Priou, publishing manager at Publicis Media; Aurélie Irurzun, head of video and publishing department at Havas Media Group; Thomas Jamet – CEO at IPG Mediabrands France; Nathalie Taboch, general manager at Ebiquity Paris; Véronique Louise, global branding and media director at Moët Hennessy (LVMH); and Ulbe Jelluma, managing director for Print Power Europe.

The roundtable identified one of the major challenges print faces today: the difficulty of measurability of its impact.

Can we really measure print’s impact?

With the development of digital communication, the ROI and profitability have become every advertiser and agency’s obsession. The roundtable discussed legitimate concerns about this need to focus on a medium’s immediate data offering, but there appears to be little appetite to assess the effectiveness of print advertising in the long term.

With ROI and KPI becoming the center of every preoccupation, advertisers have come to unjustly shun print communication, noted the participants.

“At Equibity, we recently produced a study called Re-Evaluating Media highlighting the difference between the reality and the perception of communication teams. It came to show that the press ranked in third place, just behind TV and radio, offering a complementary impact to other media and acting directly on the positive emotion surrounding the brand.” explained Nathalie Taboch. The Re-Evaluating Media highlighted the difference between the reality and the perception of print media.

These results ask the question “should we reevaluate the way print’s KPI are calculated?”, in attention and impact maybe, rather than in reach or transformation.

People do not perceive “tangible ads” (television, print or poster campaigns) the same way they do digital one, said Taboch. Digital is all about the now, the instant. It’s snackable content that will create an impulse, favoring an action or a reaction. Tangible communication calls upon the imagination, aspirations, they imprint deeper, in the memory, serving a long-lasting brand image.

“There’s a side of ROI that shouldn’t be neglected” warned Véronique Louise “it is of course about investment, but the ‘I’ also stands for imagery. I personally push my research team – because we are part of a very finance-driven company – to work on a ROI2 that takes both investment and imagery into account.”

Changing tastes of consumers

With this lack of realistic data on one hand, print communication is also faced with a brand new society consumed by immediacy.

Today’s customers and (and indeed) advertisers are not keen on waiting, especially because data is easily accessible at any given time and place. Everything has become a race for novelty and results. Every piece of data and information is ripped apart and analyzed, without even getting time to evolve, noted the experts.

Then there are changing habits of how consumers consume different media and different experiences -- people fight over limited editions, wait hours in lines to be amongst the first to eat in new trendy places, opinions and sentences are instantaneous and definitive, tweets and stories fly thick and fast, everything is in the air. Even the media seems to be allowing fake news to flourish in this race to get clicks.

A double-edged sword that hit the printed medias big time: readers say that they do not trust journalists anymore, yet are not willing to wait for them to construct and corroborate their stories. “We want it all, and we want it now,” agreed the participants.

How can print adapt to the new world?

With a new way to consume, came new demographics to target, as Louise explained : “Another factor that pushed us – brands – to step away from printed communication, is the advent of millennials and Gen Z, that are said to not read or use traditional mediums anymore. With the constant fear of getting dusty, brands are seeking out those future purchasers in this digital age.”

With access to search tools, such as Google, this demographic has slowly forgotten how to search and match information together, they are now used to demanding it. In a world that seems to be constantly speeding up on the fast lane, how can a media that takes its time survive? How can print adapt?

The industry experts said that anyone can communicate online, but being a magazine or a newspaper demands work. Something the luxury industry has kept in mind, as brands continue to fight over the best pages of publications, something that Véronique Louise, from LVMH, reminded the other participants about.

“At LVMH, what keeps this debate alive is that precarious balance between long-term and short-term strategy, between branding and immediate results,” she said.

Also, the print medium has to be able to reinvent itself. If budgets are still too low, if advertisers continue communicating via print – both because they believe in the medium and they make habit of it, innovation is key.

The future of print is uncertain, for sure. In a world that left it behind, the medium has to reinvent itself by opening up to newer generations, while understanding that print and digital serves two very different purposes.

The panel concluded that print is all about aspirations, less direct than digital communications, bit also more emotional. It offers a very particular take on imagery, imagination and brand content, when compared to digital – which is all about impulsions and curiosity. There can’t be one without the other anymore, and both are the most efficient when combined in a common strategy, together rather than opposed.

“To snatch the consumer’s attention, you have to meet them where they are with a speech tailored to the way they want to consume. And print is not a medium to forget therein,” concluded Aurélie Irurzun from Havas Media Group.

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