At a glance:
- People trust print more than electronic media – and therefore the brands that use it.
- With print, we pay attention when an article captures our interest, but we also pick up signals in a low-engagement way.
- Print can land a rational message, while leaving a lasting emotional impression too.
As I sit down to write this, the furore around Cambridge Analytica’s alleged misuse of Facebook data is only just dying down. At last count, $58 billion (£41bn) has been wiped from Facebook’s market value and Mark Zuckerberg has belatedly made a public apology.
This is only the most recent scandal to affect the world of digital media. First there were the revelations about ad viewability. And then the cases of brand damage arising from programmatic algorithms placing advertisers’ messages next to nefarious online content.
Digital media has transformed advertising, making the dreams of old-school direct marketers a reality. Its one-to-one targetability and sheer immediacy make the advertiser’s Faustian pact with digital media’s dark side – consumer irritation and invasiveness – worthwhile.
However, there has recently been a reawakening of interest in print media across the industry. This may be a reaction to the current ethical crisis of digital media – or it may simply be a fashionable retro trend like the current enthusiasm for vinyl.
I would argue that there is enough evidence to suggest that there is something deeper going on. Specifically, I would point to two reasons for the strange rebirth of print in advertising.
In print we trust
The first is the issue of trust. From horsemeat to vehicle emissions to Kendall Jenner, brands have been rocked by a succession of crises which have undermined years of assiduous investment in creating positive preference. Indeed, the latest Edelman Trust Barometer points to the biggest decline in brand and business trust since the global financial crisis.
At the same time, there is evidence that people trust print more than electronic media, and as a consequence they are more prepared to trust the brands that use it. A recent study by MediaCom has shown that campaigns which deploy magazine advertising achieve 64 to 94 percent greater scores across a range of trust metrics than those which rely on display and social.
There are many reasons for this. Principal among them is the editorial environment. People pay for newspapers and magazines, and while they accept or even enjoy the bias exhibited by their preferred titles, they also expect a certain degree of accuracy. The Mediacom study cited above shows that 70 percent of people trust magazines, whereas only 30 percent of people trust social media above magazine media.
Furthermore, in the UK, truth and decency in printed and other traditional advertising is rigorously safeguarded by the Advertising Standards Authoriy. In the US, ownership of traditional broadcast media is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. No such checks and balances apply to social media in either country.
At BBH, press advertising has played an important role in helping us restore trust in large UK brands such as Tesco. In this case, the primary driver in its recovery was a robust and insight-driven strategy, but print played a big part.
For Tesco, we prompted customers to reappraise their perception of the brand’s food quality by associating it with emotional moments in their lives.