“Power of Print” Campaign Seems to Question its Own Message

Magazines, you're making a scene…

“This business is perfectly legitimate.” “All my transactions are totally on-the-level, completely above-board.” “Trust me, baby. Would I lie to you?” “I am 100% confident that this is the edgiest new product on the market.” “I know your part seems small, but it's really important.”

What do all these lines have in common? The fact that they are never true, and that just speaking the words actually serves to render them less true. For example, if a business is “legitimate” you don't need to call it “legitimate.” If a person is actually trustworthy, they don't need to say “trust me.” We've all dealt with people who love to throw around this type of language, but it never gets more believable.

Unfortunately, these are the one-liners brought to mind by the new “Magazines, The Power of Print” campaign announced last week by a group of five major magazine publishers. The focus of the campaign is to remind advertisers, shareholders, and “industry influencers” of the fact that people still engage with print. Unfortunately, the campaign comes off much like calling a product “edgy” or a business “on-the-level.” If print was actually still relevant, the reader thinks, it wouldn't need to insist on it.


Which is, of course, pretty embarrassing for the many print industry businesses, services, and professionals who continue to operate successfully, and who hope, despite all this “death of print” hoopla, that the last gasp, if it comes, is certainly nowhere in the near future.

Some context: the Power of Print campaign, which will begin to run in May issues of over 100 magazines, has a scheduled run of seven months. A mixture of iconic print images, and slogans to the effect of “Will the Internet Kill Magazines? Did Instant Coffee Kill Coffee?” are being employed to “challenge misperceptions about the medium's relevancy and longevity, and reinforce magazines' important cultural role.”

One of the biggest problems of the campaign is its attack on the internet. The tone of the ads comes across as desperate in its insistence that the web can't replace print. Again, one of those things you don't have to insist on if you're really confident that it's true.

Apparently, the Power of Print campaign will include a digital advertising component, as well, which is a great idea. Ads for reading print on the internet will be refreshing and noticeable. But as BoSacks points out in a recent Op Ed on PrintCEO, the cabal of magazine publishers behind this campaign won't hit their targets by alienating them. Are people surfing the internet really going to believe that the medium is “fleeting” and nowhere near as “immersive” as print? Not likely.

As every advertiser knows, the best way to defeat a competitor in a print campaign is to avoid mention of that competitor altogether. I would love to see a massive-scale campaign from magazines saying simply, “Print is Amazing.” The Power of Print campaign is backed by tons of great data regarding the continued readership and sales power of magazines – why bring a defensive element into it?

Web and print are two different things. One does not need to kill the other to survive, and implying any such thing is unnecessary. It's a great idea to run a campaign talking about how great print is, but treating it like a last-chance hail-Mary play does nothing to support its own message, and may in fact serve to force the strength of the medium itself further into question.

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