MediaVest Exec: Print Is Not Enough

NEW YORK If you’re a magazine publisher who believes print ads alone will remain a viable business, Robin Steinberg has a message for you: think again.

Steinberg, svp and director of print investment at Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest, told a packed New York Times auditorium crowd Tuesday morning that pressure is mounting on magazines to offer advertisers multiplatform packages that tie-in to the Web, mobile and other appropriate digital media.

To maintain their share of ad dollars, publishers have little choice but to comply.

Steinberg, who was the keynote speaker at a weeklong breakfast series produced by the Advertising Women of New York in conjunction with Advertising Week, said clients are scrutinizing print budgets more closely, demanding greater accountability and innovations.

“It’s getting harder and harder to sell” clients on the notion that print is an essential medium in the digital age, she said. Digital ad budgets are increasing exponentially, and “it’s got to come from somewhere and it’s coming from both print and TV budgets,” she said.

“You can’t just sell me a page” anymore, Steinberg told her audience. “You have to solve problems and the consumer has to be at the heart of your marketing plan.”

Readers “love and trust some magazines,” Steinberg said. Those emotional ties must be tapped and publishers should encourage dialog between readers and the publication via digital media, she added. “Give your readers options to interact with each other and your brand. Build an online community where the common thread is your brand,” she said.

And that’s just the first step, Steinberg said. “You have to rethink every facet and challenge every notion,” down to the very basics of the business. “Is the CPM the right metric [to buy and sell ads]? Is MRI the only tool for audience measurement?” she said.

Steinberg said accountability is more important than ever: “You need to address this. Stop ignoring it.”

Distribution approaches need to be re-evaluated, said Steinberg. It’s no longer acceptable, she said, for new subscribers to wait four to six weeks for the first issue to arrive in the mail. “That makes no sense,” she said. “And they won’t wait.”

Beyond that, she urged publishers to “find better and more effective ways to reach readers. Follow the consumer,” she said, noting that perhaps bigger retail “boxes” like Costco are more effective distribution outlets than grocery chains like Food Emporium.

Clients and agencies need to accept part of the blame for previous failures to communicate, Steinberg said. In the past, agencies would issue RFPs in search of big ideas, she said, “but we expected you to guess what the client objective was.”

She also acknowledged that communication gaps still exist, but that agencies are trying to correct such gaps. “We will change,” Steinberg said. Big ideas are still in demand, she stressed. “Don’t be afraid to get it wrong.” It’s better to take risks than offer up the same old tired proposals, she said.