In its biggest agency marketing push to date, PPA Marketing is urging planning directors to join its Revolution campaign to get magazines further up their schedules.
With renewed efforts from the TV, radio and newspaper marketing bodies grabbing the headlines, the challenge for magazines is to remind the ad world that their readers represent a committed audience with whom they have a deeper relationship than any other media and who trust and value advertising on their pages.
PPA Marketing aims to meet 500 planners this year, armed with key messages about readers' relationships with magazines to drag planners' and clients' attention away from the numbers game to look deeper at the potential to reach an engaged audience in a targeted way.
The research behind it is not new, but brings together various engagement studies pulled together in recent years in an attempt to sell the medium more effectively.
Tim Lucas, managing director of media consultancy White Lodge, whose papers are driving the debate on behalf of the PPA, wants to redress what he sees as advertisers' over-reliance on TV for their campaigns, which leave magazines with an ad share of less than 7%.
"Magazine ads are, by and large, mis-planned," he says. "Campaigns go out at weights that clients would not dream of for other media."
Ad campaigns often fail to account for the dynamics of a medium in which brands reach an influential, engaged and specific readership, he argues. "Magazine readers expect ads to recognise the kind of person they are, and to be more relevant to them than in other media," says Lucas. "But, particularly in specialist titles, agencies and clients have been slow to see readers as consumers, rather than just golfers or music fans."
He points to recent bespoke campaigns run by British Airways, promoting holidays linked to specific interests in different magazines, as the kind of model that more planners should be trying to pitch.
As the former chief executive of Barb, IPC Advertising managing director Caroline McDevitt has analysed consumer insight across TV and magazines. She believes the magazine medium is undervalued by planners. "Magazines need to get onto the planning schedule much earlier, which means accounting for their access to the consumer and readers' brand loyalty," she says.
Though hesitant to join in with quite the revolutionary zeal that the PPA might hope for, media agencies welcome the dialogue as a necessary way to drive home magazines' key messages.
Charlotte Reich, head of press development at ZenithOptimedia, sees potential to use the PPA's literature with junior planners and difficult clients. "Some of our clients are nervous about doing anything but broadcast ads, and talking about mags as an engagement medium is a strong argument," she says.
Tony Manwaring, communications planning director at Initiative, adds: "Magazines are the first medium for certain categories, but the PPA needs to target areas that leave magazines behind, particularly in fast-moving consumer goods."
The key advantage that magazines have always sold is their "engagement" value - the proposition that ads placed next to directly complementary editorial content are engaged with more than other ads.
It's a view that is also espoused by the likes of MTV, whose music channels contain many related ads. Agostino di Falco, director of insight and research at Viacom Brand Solutions, demonstrated this through the Brainstorm project, which analysed individuals' responses to TV viewing. "The more diverse the environment, the more congruent ads need to be," he says. "TV, for example, will cater for niche audiences more than ever, occupying the role traditionally held by specialist mags."
So, engagement might have been a plus for magazines but could also become a threat as Rosie Faulkner, planning director at MindShare, recognises. "Magazines have long had the monopoly of deeper relationships, particularly with women, but this really is starting to change now."
Matt Teeman, BBC Magazines' director of ad sales, believes, however, that the PPA is taking an important step to addressing the next stage - integration. "Magazines are a much more complementary medium to the web than any other," he says.
The specific threat from new media will be addressed in another PPA paper later this year, which will attempt to address the rise of trends such as video-on-demand.
BATTLE OF THE MEDIA
The case made by rival media for the strength of their advertising opportunities:
Magazines - The PPA has nine key messages: people opt into magazines; they trust ads as well as the editorial; ads are actually welcomed in magazines; magazine ads have readers' undivided attention; ads are more relevant than any other medium; messages are spread by word of mouth; ads deliver simultaneous engagement and reach; magazines deliver high-spending customers; ads deliver a proven return on investment
TV - Thinkbox has set up an "engagement community" that brings together the best brains in ad agencies and broadcasters to build on its engagement study, focusing on 80 hours of fly-on-the-wall footage from 22 UK homes.
Key message: TV is still central to people's lives
Radio - The new-look Radio Advertising Bureau has set up a "creative consultancy" service; overall concepts will be measured by an effectiveness tracker that aims to demonstrate return on investment. The RAB is also launching a certificate of excellence for planners and buyers next month
Newspapers - As well as individual efforts to engage with advertisers from the likes of Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph, the Newspaper Marketing Agency is due to unveil the latest stage of its neuroscience study in May. The research aims to reveal the emotional appeal of newspapers by analysing the brain patterns of more than 2,000 readers.