The Effectiveness of Print-to-Web Advertising

We can do better.

Did you know that the effectiveness of print advertising is very scientific? Yup. There are whole companies out there devoted to studying and compiling the data involved in figuring out what exactly makes a great print ad.

Take MRI Starch Communications, for example. They specialize in gathering 'market intelligence' on print ad effectiveness. That makes them something like the CIA of the printing industry.

Unlike the CIA, however, MRI doesn't mind sharing information. They just published a list on AdAge of the 10 most effective print-to-web magazine ads of 2008, and some of the results are surprising.

To clarify, these ads succeeded in that they drove traffic checking out the magazine they were in to visit the website of the product they were advertising. The most effective ads were a) brightly colored, b) focused on an image of the product, and c) contained copy exhorting the reader to learn more / complete their experience by visiting a website.

None of this is particularly surprising. What did surprise me is that none of the ads contained a large or very well-displayed URL. Most of the URLs came at the end of a string of tiny copy near the bottom of the page. Hardly noticeable, you might think, unless someone was actually looking for it.

So here's my question: is this really the best way to drive traffic to a website? The listed ads have a 'click-thru' rate of 30-35%. The industry averages are around 15%. Isn't it possible to do better?

Could print ads that focus more on promoting a URL – rather than focusing on a product and making the funneling of site traffic incidental – not generate higher conversion rates?

I think they could. The integration of print and web advertising is still in its infancy, and has nowhere to go but good places.

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