Out of Print: Marketers Who Severely Cut Back in '09


For most traditional media, 2009 was an ugly year, but for print the tanking economy accelerated the digital migration for many large marketers.

Many big-spending categories made sharp cuts in print, according to Nielsen Co. data. Auto and light truck dealerships cut it 23 percent, real estate brokers 36 percent,  financial brokerage services 35 percent, hotels and resorts 31 percent, and automobile insurance 26 percent.

Ad spending overall fell 9 percent last year, per Nielsen. National magazine and newspaper spending fell 19.3 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively, for the same period. Marketers who made those cuts say that online media is both more accountable and has a better chance of bigger exposure, but many say print still has its place.

One of the converts to digital media is Re/Max which cut its print spend 53 percent, per Nielsen. Instead, Re/Max used display on sites that indexed high with buyers and sellers, and the company implemented behavioral targeting, tracking consumers who had been on sites like banks where they checked out mortgage rates.

“We had done a lot of SEO, paid searches before, but in 2009 we made a much more concerted effort to serve more relevant information to consumers,” said Abby Lee, vp of Re/Max brand marketing. “It’s been very, very successful for us with much higher click-through rates. National print will be down again this year.”

Hertz Car Rental blamed the economy for its 58 percent cut in print. Hertz rep Paula Rivera said that the brand’s digital spend rose “due to the effectiveness of the medium.”

At State Farm, the print budget fell 55 percent as the insurer launched four online initiatives to reach female household decision makers. One of them was a highly popular Yahoo Webcast series featuring celebrity moms like Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady on The Brady Bunch. “It got a huge number of views. It’s times like that when digital is more cost-efficient because I don’t pay any more for all of those extra views,” said Ed Gold, State Farm’s advertising director. “The great thing about print, you know who the end user is. You know they’re there monthly; they pay for it, etc. But the level of viewers is not going to vary all that much unless it’s People and they put Princess Diana on the cover.”

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