Agencies Blast Publishers, Move Follows Mag Industry Kvetching

  • by October 29, 2003
Tensions mounting between magazine publishers and major print buying agencies erupted Tuesday afternoon at two separate industry events: a closed-door meeting of the Consumer Magazine Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies; and a panel discussion featuring top print buyers at the Fall Folio Show in New York.

The Madison Avenue outpouring follows a similar bitch session among publishers during the recent American Magazine Conference in Rancho Mirage, CA, where publishers complained agencies have been unnecessarily raking them over the coals - especially where the minutiae of their Audit Bureau of Circulations statements are concerned.

Interestingly, Steve Moynihan, senior vice president and managing director of print savvy shop Arnold/MPG and Folio panelist said he was the only ad agency executive in attendance at the AMC, which didn't exactly embrace the input of Madison Avenue.

It was the excessive griping by publishers that got ad agency executives going during Tuesday's AAAA committee meeting, said Audrey Siegel, senior vice president and director of client services of TargetCast TCM, a member of that committee and a Folio panelist.



During the Folio panel, agency executives and a top publishing industry consultant all agreed significant changes must be made at both agencies and among publishers if the magazine industry is ever going to break television's stranglehold on share of mind and market.

One of the problems, said Zenith Media's Steve Greenberger, is that at many agencies, television is planned separately from magazines. If they were being planned at the same time, he said the five gross ratings points available from a daytime TV show could be increased by the 15 points available from a magazine that targets the same audience. Greenberger said that if media planners started working that way, there would be an immediate realization of print's power.

As an important first step in that process, Greenberger called for the development of a weekly "rating points" reporting system for magazine audience delivery. He said such research, while crude, is currently feasible and would enable agency planning departments to plan and manage magazine buys in conjunction with TV.

But because the planning and buying cycles of television and magazines don't mesh, the agency people said a lot of those opportunities are lost. Valerie Muller, a media consultant and former Mediacom executive, said that media is being planned backward and that print's impact is being considered on a monthly basis and not always as it accumulates.

Publishers have a big role in changing the way things are done. Publishers need to put down their collective feet, enforcing deadlines and tightening inventory. They also need to have to focus on getting the proper value from readers, agencies and advertisers.

"If every agency were to value their publication and believe in them, the agency side, we would believe in it, too," said TargetCast's Siegel. She said that the agencies began to ask more and more and yet no one said no. And, Siegel added, magazines have to realize who the real competition is.

"To break out, stop looking at other publications as your main competitors. They're not. The 90 percent [of market share] that's going to other media is your competition," she said.

What would agency people like magazine publishers to accomplish? The top of the wishlist included steps that would speed up the process, including: weekly delivery of data (compared to the 18-month wait for circulation numbers), timely delivery and timely deadlines.

Muller said that publishers have to be more accountable and agile. She said magazines need to be as quick as television in accountability and faster than the two months' lead time that many magazines require to place an ad. Until magazines become more agile, the dollars earmarked for other media - particularly television - will never shift to print.

MPG/Arnold's Moynihan said the lead time really hurts magazines. He said the slowdown in ad pages that traditionally occurs in January has less to do with the post-holiday doldrums than the fact that clients' budgets aren't set until October and there isn't enough time to make a buy.

"January is not an option for me with print," Moynihan said.

TargetCast's Siegel noted that television, either scatter or spot, can be purchased in the short term, buying in December for January. You can also do that in newspapers and radio but not in magazines for the most part.

"Print is tough because you've got an eight to 10-week lead time. That makes it hard," she said.

Next story loading loading..