by Denny Hatch
Space advertising is a viable medium for acquiring new customers and donors. Here are some basics for direct marketers:
Space Ads: Advantages
1 Use a space ad, and your offer can be in your prospects' hands quickly—in a couple of days if you run in a daily newspaper, or a couple of weeks if you place it in a weekly.
2 Your offer is in everyone's hands at the same time. Be aware that this also can be a disadvantage if you're not set up to handle a rush of orders.
3 With space, you can reach the same audiences for less money than via direct mail. For example, if spending $400/M to reach subscribers of a certain magazine doesn't pay in terms of the allowable cost per order, you can reach those same folks via a space ad in that magazine for $20/M to $30/M—or less if you negotiate. Since they all read the magazine, this may be worth a test.
4 With space, you can reach wider audiences. Example: If you have a general interest business or consumer product or service, you can reach likely prospects in out-of-the-way places, such as in-flight magazines.
5 Print ads are far easier to create than full-dress direct mail packages.
6 Unlike mail, you can negotiate for even lower CPMs. In the immortal words of freelance media consultant Iris Shokoff, "I've never bought an ad at full rate in my life."
7 If you have credit, you can run the ad and be billed later, paying for the ad out of revenues. Remember, the U.S. Postal Service demands full postage in advance, or you don't mail.
Space Ads: Disadvantages
8 Your offer is public knowledge on the day of publication, opening you up to copycat offers from your competition.
9 You're severely limited in terms of space; it cannot be a highly complex or difficult-to-explain offer.
Successful Space Ads
The following tips are from Margaret Rose Roberts, one of world's premier writers and consultants in the world of off-the-page advertising for direct marketers. She learned her craft working with the legendary Ted Nicholas (né Nick Peterson) and was president of his publishing company. Her specialty: Taking a direct mail control package and turning it into a successful advertisement, then negotiating the media buys. She can be reached at (870) 431-7729. (These tips are culled from the book "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success," by Denny Hatch and Don Jackson, published by NTC Business Books.)
10 Space advertising may provide you with a large universe of untapped buyers.
11 Test a full-page ad. To get paying customers, don't skimp on space. Most mail-order products need as much selling copy as possible. Avoid the temptation to test a small ad first. It rarely will give meaningful results. Full-page ads command attention.
12 To cut costs, use a large ad in a small circulation magazine rather than a small ad in a large circulation book.
13 Full-page ads are more cost-effective and command better attention in print. Consider a test for a women's diet offer. With a budget of $10,000 we developed a media plan for full-page ads in five publications: a women's magazine, a weekly tabloid, a fitness magazine, a health magazine and a regional newspaper. More than 1.4 million potential buyers were reached at an average of $7/M, spreading the risk and improving the odds for a winner.
14 But if your product is inexpensive or self-explanatory, you may be able to test with a small display ad or even classified ad.
15 High-ticket items ($200 or more) sometimes are tested in a two-step approach, with a small display ad to generate inquiries.
16 Stick with the best elements of your proven mail offer. Don't change prices or add new elements unless there's a strong reason to do so.
17 Make every word count. This is the real challenge of space ad copy. Use the guts of what makes your mail package successful. Make careful, painful cuts to your mail copy.
18 Use long copy rather than big graphics. Use illustrations that draw readers to the ad, or don't use them at all. Photos of people tend to work better than photos of products alone.
19 Test one ad that you consider your best shot.
20 Be sure you make it easy for customers to respond. Check the basics—does the coupon have enough space for customers to fill it out?
21 Toll-free numbers offer a good opportunity to upsell. Fax numbers work well for business offers, particularly overseas.
22 Look for "editorial fit"—magazines that directly tie in with the nature of your product. If your offer ties in with a specific newspaper classification, such as "business services" or "real estate," you'll reach your target audience in the paper's well-read sections.
23 Look for a small, less-expensive publication in a category of magazines that have competition. If the ad is successful, you want to have a few ready places to try next.
24 Go with the media whose demographics most clearly match your target audience. Advertising media kits supply the basics on audience, but ask specific questions. Many magazines have independent readership surveys. Some also have a research analyst to help explain available data.
25 Look for audited, paid-circulation figures. People who pay for a magazine are more likely to read it carefully than those who get it free. Use only the paid-circulation figures to compute the cost per thousand (CPM). Media will promote readership figures, but these data often are unreliable and exaggerated.
26 The price you pay often determines your long-term success or failure in space, so be prepared to bargain! With most media, it's critical that you be prepared to bargain, or have an agency that will do so for you. Your margin of profitability is largely determined by what you pay for what you get.
See if the publication offers:
• A mail order discount (up to 25 percent is common).
• A special test rate for new advertisers.
• Standby ad space (tests at the media's convenience can save 50 percent).
• Last minute "remnant space."
If a publication seems eager to get your business, suggest it run your ad on a per-inquiry (PI) basis—or per order. You have no risk and pay the media an agreed percentage of your sales or x dollars per inquiry.
None of this information will be volunteered by the publication. Ask for everything, and you'll often get some type of a rate break. Recognized advertising agencies get 15-percent commission. A good agency can save you 20 percent to 80 percent.
27 Bargain for position. In magazines, a right-hand page in the front usually will be better read than a left-hand page or a page in the back. Some media charge a "position premium" to honor special requests. Often you can bargain these premiums away if they really want your business. Having your ad run opposite or surrounded by editorial helps it stand out. In newspapers, the best position is a right-hand page, above the fold on the outside corner.
28 Be aware of timing. For example, monthly magazines close their books for orders 30 to 60 days ahead of issue. You may get an additional week or two to supply artwork. If you're in a hurry, newspapers, which have short two- to three-day closing deadlines, are a natural.
29 Don't buy the frequency line. It's the myth that you need to run at least three times before the ad will start to pay out. The best results almost always are with the first exposure of the ad in a new medium. Thereafter, let the extent to which the publication's audience changes and how strongly the medium pulled on the first test be your guide to determining how often to run. Experiment and test. (Ask for a frequency discount while you're at it.)
30 Unless an offer depends heavily on color visual, it's best to start out with a black-and-white ad. Color can add 20 percent to 40 percent to your cost.
31 Split test. Many advertisers get tired of their own ads, or make what they believe to be improvements to the ad, only to have poor results convince them they made a mistake. To avoid risking heavy losses, test any change—whether large or small—by way of a split test.
On the other hand, any ad eventually will get tired. It pays to test new creative, changes to the offer, bonuses, pricing, illustrations, color or even different products.
32 An A/B split is the only way to eliminate outside influences and get a true reading on the performance of one ad against another. With a perfect A/B split, you provide the media with artwork (coded separately) for your control ad and for the test ad. Every other copy of the publication comes off the press with the same ad. There's no geographic bias. Both ads appear in the same issue, in the same position, surrounded by the same editorial, so any significant difference in response reasonably can be attributed to the ad itself.
33 Newspapers that offer an A/B split usually will charge less for the split fee than a magazine. However, it's best to conduct the test in your best media, regardless of cost. If you run in different media, try to schedule the same test in at least two or three places to see if results are consistent.
34 Beware of 50/50 splits. Publications sometimes offer an "imperfect" A/B split or a "cluster" split. Instead of having the ideal mix of every other copy, the issue is batched in groups of 50 to 500. Media that offer a 50/50 split guarantee only that each ad will be distributed to 50 percent of the circulation. Be sure there's no geographic bias to the distribution.
35 If you want to test one region vs. another, some media will accommodate geographic splits at no charge, so long as the territorial splits tie in with their normal distribution boundaries.
36 Many media aren't set up to do splits. Others will do splits only on full pages. Split charges can vary from zero to $3,000, so it pays to bargain. Conduct A/B splits in your most-profitable media. TV Guide offers a split-run nationally or within each of eight regions. Delta Sky will do a four-way (A/B/C/D) split, which provides an easy way to test travel and business offers.
37 Be sure every ad is coded separately so you can track results.
38 In measuring the results of a split run, look for a clear winner. If results are separated by only a small margin, you gain nothing. Unless the test outpulls a control by 20 percent or more, it's not a clear winner over a control ad that's had prior exposure in the publication.
39 Track ad results as long as possible but no less than three months. Some ads pull orders years after the issue date. This is particularly true of magazines that tend to hang around barbershops or doctors' offices.
40 Don't be discouraged if your initial results are not blockbuster. I work with an advertiser whose test ad ran in three magazines. Two of the three failed, and the third was only marginal. With what we learned, we still built a long-term successful ad campaign that helped double the client's subscriber base.