Searching for eureka moments to cut through to consumers

When it comes to magazines, advertisers are always striving for fresh ways to market products. Deborah Bonello leafs through the pages and examines the logic behind the latest innovations

Gone are the days when magazine advertising was a simple on-the-page deal. You are as likely to find a vibrating gizmo, lenticular picture, a piece of sandpaper or even a kitchen sink in the latest copy of your consumer glossy as you are the more predictable sexy model shots and traditional ads.

OK , maybe not a kitchen sink.

But the rise of more media neutral communications planning and a demand from both clients and agencies to think beyond standard advertising formats has forced media owners and agencies alike to innovate in order to help brands raise their heads above the parapet.

Recent weeks have seen a spate of “off-the-wall” rather than “off-the-shelf ” advertising campaigns from the UK’s magazine publishers.

Earlier this month weekly music magazine NME ran a lenticular (that’s a 3D picture that looks a little like a hologram to you and me) front cover on behalf of client O2, featuring the controversial Pete Doherty of the Libertines. And Emap has announced that the January 2005 issue of FHM will run a promotion for Gillette’s new micropulsating razor by circulating 100,000 vibrating credit-card shaped tip-ons.

The proliferation of these sorts of stunts – the cynics out there might call them gimmicks – and other mechanisms such as “barn doors” (a front cover with middle gatefold), sticky notes, fragranced advertising and popup promotions aren’t new, but their frequency is increasing and big consumer publishers such as Emap and IPC have specific members of staff on the case.

David Wilding, business director at MindShare, has been negotiating deals of this kind for the past few years and says media owners have become increasingly receptive to promotions of this kind.

“I think it opens up a whole new market for them,” says Wilding. “There’s the potential for them to make new money.”

James Hayr, magazines director at Emap Create, which helped put together the forthcoming Gillette promotion, says the publisher’s intention is for him and his team to focus on new thinking in the area of magazine promotions – be that advertorial, or more stunt-based projects like the work mentioned above.

“It’s about doing something that goes a little further, because things can become formulaic at times,” says Hayr, who notes that both agencies and clients are putting briefs of this kind on his desk on an almost daily basis.

“Agencies are getting squeezed to do something over and above buying cost-effectively,” he adds. “Our sales team used to go out all the time and sell ideas but it’s flipped now.

We’re quite a reactive business and get a new brief nearly every day.”

Richard Castle, head of business development at IPC Ignite!, also says it used to be IPC going to the agencies to sell them on ideas that their clients could use, but now things have changed. He says he and his team enjoy coming up with new processes and ideas, but these sorts of innovations aren’t only generated internally.

“A lot of it is actually coming out of the planning teams from West End media agencies,” says Castle. “They’ve really upped their game in terms of thinking creatively.”

John Maloney, media manager at PHD, says: “Increasingly, clients are turning to media agencies to deliver cut-through where, in the past, they might have looked to creative agencies.

In my experience, closer collaboration between investment and creative teams can yield fantastic results.”

The thing that most clients want is cut-through, stand-out and media firsts, according to Emap’s Hayr, who thinks these sorts of initiatives also tend to make consumers feel good.

“Everybody likes to be talked to as an individual and readers like it when a brand has gone the extra mile to talk to them as an individual, because it makes them feel a bit special,” he says.

Both Hayr and Maloney admit the benefits of promotions of this kind are less tangible than standard magazine ads.

Hayr notes that much of it is pretty token and that publishers lack sound research on its effectiveness.

Maloney adds: “The most obvious benefits are stand-out and PR potential. Using press in an innovative way definitely says something about the brand – another reason why they’re not always appropriate [to each other] – vibrating pages may not suit a brand with traditional values, such as Churchill shoes.”

Martin Corke, group ad director at IPC Innovation, which was involved in the creation of the NME lenticular cover, says: “There are lots of clever and cunning ways to capture as many senses as possible.”

Corke says using things that stimulate the human senses such as texture, smell and interactivity help publishers and advertisers grab the attention of readers and make more of an impression.

Corke also says he and his team have been very focused on getting close with suppliers – the companies who actually create the technology and mechanisms that the agencies place within the media.

“We get out there in front of the suppliers of print technology to see what we can do that separates us from the competition,” says Corke.

The relationship works both ways.

“We encourage them to show us what they’re capable of and then we take it to themarket,” explains Corke.

Naturally, campaigns of this kind cost more than your bog-standard in the book magazine advertising deal. They generally involve a brand buying the page and then shelling out for whatever gadget or creative feature is needed on top of that – and most of the time this is outsourced to a print mechanism supplier rather than produced in-house.

“It’s going to cost more,” concedes Corke, but says that, on the whole, the awareness generated and the effectiveness of these types of promotions is greater than that from more traditional magazine advertising.

While pioneering innovations and stunts are becoming increasingly popular with brands and might be a potential new source of revenue for publishers, they are not particularly profitable for the titles concerned.

Emap’s Hayr says: “We’re probably the least cost-efficient division in Emap because it’s very labour intensive.”

But the benefits to media owners of both bending over backwards for clients as well as coming up with cutting-edge creative ideas are obvious because, as always, the rest of the market is watching. Not only can it raise the profile of the media owner as an innovator, but also it improves its client services reputation – thus promising to bring in more business. And that can only encourage even more innovation.

Case study: Gillette

The vibrating tip-on (a mechanism stuck to the magazine) that MindShare and Emap designed for the launch of Gillette’s M3 Power Razor runs in the January issue of FHM.

James Hayr, magazines director at Emap Create, says that although the idea of a vibrating gizmo to back the launch of the razor wasn’t rocket science, finding that special something wasn’t easy.

“We didn’t have anything in the cupboard so we went out to card shops and all sorts of places, to try to find something that already existed.

We found it in a greetings card.”

Then it was back to the office, and Hayr’s team set about commissioning the production of 100,000 units, which will go out in that number of FHM copies.

The vibrating unit is part of a bigger launch campaign for the product – which features footballer David Beckham– including ads in the pages of FHM.

Mike Harland, account manager at MindShare, which is behind the campaign, says the agency believes this is the first time a vibrating mechanism of this kind has been used in the UK press. He adds that the aim of the concept is to “create huge stand-out during an extremely busy and cluttered period”.

Case study: Boots

IPC previously ran a pop-up advertising campaign for the Boots No 7 make-up range.

The publisher inserted an ad that popped out of the magazine and invited readers to interact with it.

They could play around with it to see things like which eye shadows went with which and get more information about the makeup range.

Sue Nuttall, creative and planning coordinator at IPC Innovator, recalls that it was an expensive campaign. The paper pop-up work was done by a company in Japan and much of the actual mechanism was handmade.

The pop-up ad ran in 1999 and there hasn’t been a campaign of this nature and scale since, but Nuttall says there are more on the cards.

The Boots pop-up ad – which ran in women’s lifestyle mags Marie Claire and Elle– was designed to complement a TV ad campaign that was on air at that point.

“The pop-up ad was used to create synergy with a TV ad,” she explains.

The TV ad featured a girl getting ready for work in the morning and making a mess – spilling wine on her shirt and so forth – but then it all comes together when she puts on her Boots makeup.

Initially, the pop-up ad in the mag was on top of a pink page.

Nuttall says: “What they did to prolong the campaign was to run a second burst of pink pages that said: “Oops.

Someone’s pinked my pop-up.”

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