18 . 04 . 18

The 10 wicked wisdoms of Juan Senõr

Words by: Print Power
Think you’ve got the print debate pegged? The presenter of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity begs to differ…

The power of print at a glance

  • From circulation to frequency, there’s no point in flogging the same tired old horse.
  • Print has to be reinvented as the premium choice – and a pricey one at that.
  • Don’t buy into the digital frenzy – print is the antidote to fake news and fraudulence.

Is print dead? Nope. Are advertisers still bedazzled by digital? Absolutely. Is the Google/Facebook duopoly here to stay? Don’t think so.

Print evangelist, president of INNOVATION Media Consulting – the leading global media consultancy firm based in London – and Cannes Lions presenter Juan Senõr talks disruption, displacement and “tremendous, tremendous fraud” in our no-holds-barred chat about the past, present and future of print media. Buckle up.

  1. Print is dead? Just a fable, folks…

As new technologies arise, we love to conjure up and highlight fables (remember the paperless offices from the ‘80s?) – including the idea that print is dead. It’s not, dammit.

The notion that one medium kills another is simply not true. Sure, platforms of distribution die: the telegraph, the fax machine… and perhaps, soon, even certain forms of telephony.

And if print were a platform, I’d say: “Yes, it’s dead. RIP print.” Because there’s no language there – no medium. It’s just a distribution platform. Unfortunately, many of us mistake the two.

But print, as a medium, has permanence. It’s eternal.

  1. Print will find its place – when digital discovers its own language

When films arrived on the scene many years ago, there was talk that theatre would die. But really what we saw was this transition through disruption.

The first films were actually recordings of Shakespearean plays. The first news broadcasts were really no different to radio – think Edward R Murrow smoking a cigarette on set.

Often, we revert to a kind of “skeuomorphism”, translating the language of an old medium into a new one. We’ve seen this repeatedly throughout history – and for 25 years or more in digital. 

It applies to print too: we’ve transported this wildly successful, text-based medium online – and once digital finally finds its own language, print will rediscover its future within that mix.

  1. Displacement beats replacement

First comes disruption, then displacement. You already see this with the web, which has moved into the newspaper space. And with newspapers, which have moved into the magazine space.

Look at The New York Times International Edition, which, in terms of content proposition and format, is now more of a daily magazine.

The fact is, you can’t keep flogging the same, tired old horse and not reinvent your product.

The Glamour magazines of today… they complain they’re shutting down. Well, of course they are. Their traditional print offering hasn’t evolved – and honestly, I don’t need them now that they’re online.

  1. Premium means pricier

Within the print space, the “play” is to make it ever-more premium. 

Take Versace. It produces very few dresses in the £100,000 to £125,000 price bracket, yet these remain its flagship product. But if you don’t make that haute couture investment, those magical dresses for the red carpet, you cannot build the rest of your business.

Print has to be reinvented as the premium choice, to have “rippability” and beautiful design, in a larger format; and to be a keepsake.

And when you make it premium, it must be pricier. We calculate a multiple of five times what it costs now. Put it this way: if you want a sailing boat in the age of the motor engine you have to pay for it, right? 

  1. Flat is the new up

Everybody’s talking about the decline in print circulations.

And, yeah, they will decline. Anybody who pretends they won’t, who’s still hanging on to the golden age of mass circulation and mass sales, is either naïve or nostalgic – and doesn’t know how to reposition print for profit.

But they’re not falling off a cliff edge. Eventually, circulations will flatten out at a stable, but still lucrative, level.

  1. Less often, more “lean back”

The big, complicated, ever-evolving issue, particularly for newspapers, is frequency.

Take FT Weekend. It’s a delicious, quality product that’s perfect for print. It arrives on a Friday and you spend the entire weekend reading it. You don’t just toss out its How To Spend It magazine. I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if the FT drops its Monday-to-Thursday run completely someday.

You hear a lot of noise about the “lean-back experience”. And this sounds like the way print should be done. But if you’re going to succeed, you have to make sure that what you’re providing genuinely is “lean back”, like the FT Weekend.

  1. Brand building? Print’s a no-brainer…

It’s not great for clients to have their brands associated with fake news. So, the leading voices in the industry are singing print’s praises.

For brand finding – whether it be a quick commercial transaction, a call to action or a weekend discount – digital trumps print every time.

But for brand building, for when you’re relaunching an entire proposition, there really is no comparison. Print wins hands down.

With digital, you just don’t have the permanence, the time or the ability to spark the imagination, because it’s so transactional. For me, that’s where the future of print advertising lies.

  1. The digital frenzy is frankly absurd

As you’ve heard WPP’s Martin Sorrell, P&G’s Marc Pritchard and many others say, the misguided, massive flip to digital spending isn’t working. I agree. It’s a little absurd.

This cycle needs to be rebalanced, because it’s evident that many millions of pounds aren’t performing. And they’re not performing because there’s this tremendous, tremendous fraud. 

You may reach a million people. But you will reach a million people for a quarter of a second – as opposed to 100,000 for 10 or maybe 20 seconds.

  1. Print still underpins many awarded campaigns

When it comes to awards festivals, I wouldn’t say that just because the traditional categories for print and publishing are getting reframed, that advertising interest in those categories is dying.

We should be looking at the fact that a lot of these campaigns are now integrated – and in many cases, the kick-off for a campaign is anchored in prestigious print work.

Of course, there’s no denying that the industry is bedazzled by the volume play. But it’s really dodgy what’s going on. The currency of transaction is very much based on impressions – never mind that many of them are bots in China.

  1. Take the fight to the Google/Facebook duopoly

We’ve been whinging about the Google/Facebook duopoly and playing defence for far too long. Yahoo! and AOL came before them, and look where they are now.

Of course, it will be a long time before they’re done. Google and Facebook have cornered £70 billion of ad space globally. But I don’t think their longevity is guaranteed. They’re as vulnerable as anybody else – particularly in the face of myriad, recent demands to restructure their business models. Just look at Facebook’s recent troubles.

Print has an important role to fill as the situation evolves. And if that means anchoring more campaigns in paper, so be it.

Want more outspoken opinions from some of marketing's best and brightest? Sign up to our newsletter.