Ad Buyers Mixed on Meredith Guarantee Program

Only one advertiser has signed up so far

Meredith has named Kimberly-Clark as the first client for its Engagement Dividend, a program that guarantees advertisers a lift in sales for brands advertised in its magazines aimed at women like Better Homes and Gardens and Parents.

For marketers, who have for years demanded proof that their advertising is performing as promised, this program would seem to be the holy grail. Yet there doesn't seem to have been a stampede by advertisers clamoring to sign up. After six months and more than 125 client meetings, Kimberly-Clark is the only one on board. 

Michael Brownstein, chief revenue officer of Meredith’s National Media Group, said that while Kimberly-Clark is the first client, Meredith is in negotiations with four more advertisers and that it expects to meet its goal of having 10 consumer packaged-goods advertisers for 2012. Meredith is also exploring similar sales-based guarantees for auto and pharma clients.

Brownstein said there's been strong interest from marketers, but that many didn’t meet the parameters Meredith set for participation in the program. Meredith was looking for marketers to advertise multiple brands in multiple titles, commit for the full year, and increase their 2012 spending with Meredith by at least $1 million over 2011.

“No one is doubting the methodology,” Brownstein said. “I don’t think there’s a meeting where I’m not getting great enthusiasm for this. But they have to meet the criteria.”

That's not the story some ad buyers are telling. They've raised doubts about the program, though they do praise Meredith for doing the research and taking a step toward a guarantee. 

John Nitti, executive vice president at Zenith Media, said that while he gives Meredith credit for being the first publisher to conduct sales lift research, he objected to some of the caveats and terms of the program.

“For us it was not a true guarantee, so we took a pass and even more importantly it wasn't across channel (digital and magazine),” he emailed.

For others, the issue might be having brands whose objectives align with the program as well as having the extra money in the budget to spend with those titles.

“You have to feel pretty confident that their portfolio of publications makes sense for the brand,” said Rich Gagnon, chief media officer at Draftfcb New York. “If you’ve already maxed out with the brand, the research might not be that important to you.”

Gagnon said he’s evaluating the program for clients but hasn’t been sold on it yet.

For the program, Meredith overlays its subscriber database with Nielsen’s Homescan panel to measure purchase behavior by subscribers who were exposed to the ads. It will compare that purchase behavior to consumers who weren’t exposed to the Meredith titles. Meredith said that in tests, its readers bought 10 percent more of the advertised brands in categories like food, beauty, and household goods.