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Magazine advertising may be down, but it's not out. New research shows that magazine ads are still a major driver to brand websites and ads with URLs included in them drive a higher rate of traffic online. Now it's all about making it easier for readers to get there.

A new Affinity study confirms that magazine ads with URLs are more likely to drive readers to advertiser websites overall, across a range of genres. Even if increasing web traffic is not the goal of the advertising campaign, including a URL boosts web visits for consumers who view the ad.

Connecting print to online is a key to creating more engaging advertising. The fact that some users are taking the extra step to type in a URL shows how well multi-platform campaigns work. And smartphones have the potential to help close the feedback loop and make them even more useful.

Affinity found that that when the URL was included in a magazine advertising creative the percent change in website visits tripled (from two to six points).

The VISTA research tracked 833 ads in seven different magazines representing six distinct magazine genres and found that while only 7% of consumers went to the brand's website from a regular ad, including a URL increased web views to 15%.

Surprisingly, offline media often performed better than online media in driving web traffic and search, even when URL addresses were missing or not prominently displayed in offline ads.

The key to maximizing magazine ad strength for online is making it easy for viewers to connect the products they see in the wild, whether in magazines, billboards or in stores, with online actionable items.

Typing out URLs is an annoying process in a world of instant technology, and printed URLs are a slow way of getting people online.

Better URLs could make a big difference (Bit.ly urls have started appearing in magazine ads and other shortening services will likely appear). But especially with advances in mobile and the increased usage of smartphones, code reading should become a more important piece of that ad puzzle.

QR codes (two-dimensional bar codes that look like this) have been slow to make ground in magazine ads, but they are starting to crop up in more and more places. Microsoft announced last month that it is including a bar code called the "Microsoft Tag" into its Xbox videogames, and brands are trying to incorporate the squares into their designs to make them more visually appealing. To that end, Louis Vitton recently partnered with Takashi Murakami to make some attractive QR codes (image above).

Mark Kroese, general manager of entertainment and devices advertising for Microsoft tells Forbes: "Tags take everything advertisers are doing and turbocharge it."

Meghan Keane

Published 22 July, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

Comments (5)



Great article. Its great to see that publications are starting to get smart about using the traditional methods in conjunction with the new methods... web & social media.

over 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user


Can you expand on what QR codes are/do? Never come across them and am trying to work out why a retailer would use them. Are they for redemption at till point in-stores or is there an online application?

Re the use of URL shorteners, it may be a good way to cut down on long, laborious URLs in print but it is not great for brand awareness as you cut out the important domain name section. Are there any stats on which is driving the greatest response and conversion?

The link you provide shows editorial in a magazine, not really an ad per se. Any examples of shortened URLs in traditional ads?



over 7 years ago

Meghan Keane

Meghan Keane, US Editor at Econsultancy


QR codes are essentially bar codes that can be read by a camera and direct a user to a variety of locations, including websites, photos, a phone number or text.

I don't have stats on whether URL shorteners or domain names draw the most traffic online, but I would suggest that shorteners are best used in print for websites that have long, complicated addresses or subdomains that could confuse readers. If a domain is short and easy, there'd be no need for a bit.ly address.

QR codes are handy because they don't require any memorization or typing, but they are still limited to a subset of users who have smartphones or some way to get the image online.
Cheers, Meghan

over 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Meghan

Appreciate the response and information. I'd heard about barcodes that can be read by a camera but had no idea they were called QR.

Interesting development.



over 7 years ago



Has anyone else read the white paper the "Magazines Excel in Driving Web Search" table at the end of the article is from. It's a piece of research published  by the MPA using data from Simmons which shows some interesting results. Some of the findings just don't seem to match up with the Forrester research of last year which showed Email, Search Portals and Social networks to be seen as more trustworthy as print magazines. Yet in this research it shows Magazines as being more trusted than 'internet'.

Maybe this is down more to how the research was carried out, I know I certainly don't trust 'the internet'.

about 7 years ago

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