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How magazine media fits into the ‘new advertising game’

Something “profound positive” has changed in the magazine media industry in the past 18 months a top Unilever executive told the American Magazine Media 360º Conference in New York on Tuesday.

Rob Candelino (pictured), vice president of marketing, haircare at Unilever, was part of a panel on advertising including Lori Hiltz, chief executive officer of Havas Media and Michael Clinton, president of marketing and publishing director, Hearst Magazines. Michael Kassan, chairman and chief executive officer of MediaLink moderated the session.

FIPP's Cobus Heyl reports.

Candelino told how, for years, he never met publishers. Today he does it regularly. He said magazine media have “fantastic print and relevant omni-channels” [multiple platform products], which, today, stands them in good stead.

He also lauded innovation within the industry: “Lately, there is real ground-breaking innovation coming from within the magazine media industry, whereas previously it only came from newer players. You have made print and all of its media channels very relevant for a guy like me.”

According to Candelino there “has never been this embarrassment of riches for advertisers” (options to choose from). Within this, pioneering spirit is important. 

“Unilever likes to be pioneers by looking at new opportunities in all channels.” Today, magazine media fits the bill. “We will continue to work with the Hearsts and Condés doing ground-breaking work.” A key factor in this change is an openness “at the other side of the table (i.e. publishers)” to doing pioneering work. This “did not exist 3 – 5 years ago.”

Hearst Magazines’ Clinton highlighted the fact that magazine media today have opportunity to tap into more advertising budgets than ever before, to attract print, digital, social, event and video budget spend. “There is a lot [of ad budgets] we did not have access to before.” This means a “big opportunity” of magazine media to put together integrated, omni-channel campaigns for clients.

One inevitable question was on the role of native advertising, with its proponents for and against, and the ways in which magazine media are engaged with it. 

Candelino said “what the magazine media industry should be celebrated for is that you were native before native was cool. What you should be criticised for, is losing ownership of the narrative… You were doing advertorials long before.” It took a while for magazine media to “get at it again”, but it is good that the industry is now part of the narrative again.

For Clinton there is simply no question that magazine media have to be involved with it. “We have got to be in the space, all of us, because the world around us is in the space.” Companies should “be transparent (about native advertising), but we have to reinvent and be a part of it. Shame on us if we do not.”

Storytelling is in magazine media’s DNA and the industry is therefore well suited to the development of quality native advertising. “There is a lot of content out there, but with all respect some of it is sub-standard. Looking at [the MPA’s magazine media awards] last night, we have immense value to bring.”

Turning their attention to the development of “brands as publishers”, Hiltz referred to the blurring of lines in the industry, for example with brands producing content. In the end, with the ongoing change publishers, agencies and brands have to continually evolve their business. “Brands as publishers” is one of those areas “where it will be interesting to see how things play out.”

Clinton added that “publishing” is easier said than done, which leaves scope for cooperation. “To get the stick-ability, the engagement and return is a big challenge, even for people who do it for a living [like magazine media]. But if we come together, at the intersection of the two, that’s where magic will happen.”

Turning attention to the impact of developments such as the Internet of Things, a question was how, as an example, “a talking bottle of shampoo” might change marketing. Candelino responded that while things are often positioned as a zero sum game, it is not. 

Therefore, something like connected products can serve as a multiplier, an additional opportunity rather than detracting from somewhere else. People will engage in various different ways, but “like at a dinner party where you meet many different people, you will end up with who you like.” 

Brands, such as magazine media, must therefore go back to “what makes you special as a brand,” and then expand it “everywhere” to create opportunities to engage and make an impact.

Speaking of the immediate future, Clinton emphasised that on the print side of business relationships with consumers have never been stronger than it is today. However, companies have to continue to refine strategies and innovate and take care for legacy not to become a drag. “We have to think more like pureplays and not about our legacy. We need to think of all platforms to build value.”

More about MPA’s 360 conference.

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