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.”