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Exactly who is reading that magazine?

While the major FMCG companies have the benefit of skilled media planners, many smaller companies, particularly in the industrial, technical and professional sectors, do their own media planning. And there is a whole host of publications selling advertising space without clearly defining their target audience. And since they are staying in business, someone is buying it!
They might offer well-designed, glossy magazines on good quality stock that really look the part. They might offer high print runs “proving” that your ad will be great value for money as the cost per thousand is really quite reasonable. But if they can't tell you specifically who is reading their magazine, how do you know exactly who is going to see your ad?

One of my favourite catch-all answers is “industry stakeholders”. Okay, take banking; my teenage son has a bank account and could therefore theoretically qualify as a stakeholder in the banking industry. So I want to know exactly what is meant by stakeholder. Telling me, for example, that your magazine is read by “municipal decision makers” simply doesn't fly. If I need to reach the technical guy, and your magazine is distributed to municipal managers and mayors, it's no use to me.

Here is a direct quote from the rate card of a magazine that is currently selling space for their next edition: “We circulate to captains of industry in mining, manufacturing, municipal, provincial, public enterprises and national government departments.” That's it, the full readership profile! So they are targeting advertisers in each of these sectors. Do you care if mine managers see your ad for that fabulous new packaging line you are selling? Or whether the media liaison officer at the Department of Arts and Culture sees your ad for your new roofing system?


And then there is the “blackmail” publication. Often once-off, this magazine will often cover an industry hot topic. It might even be touted as a coffee table publication, and the rate card might be accompanied by a letter of authority or support from some high ranking government or quasi-government official. The implicit message is that you really need to support the publication because it is prudent from a perspective of showing your support for a project that matters to them.

Last week I received a letter informing me that “By advertising in X, you are supporting the work of Y.” Okay, but does it deliver the audience I need to reach in an environment where my message will be heard? If you choose to support worthwhile projects or charities that align with your business, that might be a great corporate social responsibility decision, but perhaps it shouldn't be included in your advertising budget.

Of course, it is possible that these publications do, in fact, offer a worthwhile vehicle for your advertising, but if they aren't giving you the information to prove it, it is difficult to justify their inclusion in your schedule. And it's up to them to make sure you have the information you need to make a sound decision.

Is your media plan the result of a logical analysis of the numbers and an objective assessment of the editorial environment and the quality of the audience? Or are you being dragooned by high-pressure sales people or led by your personal preferences?
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About Ann Druce

Ann Druce spent 15 years on the client side of the business, marketing major FMCG brands for big name companies, including Unilever and Adcock Ingram, before moving to the other side of the desk and joining an ad agency. Today she heads up Octarine Communications, an advertising and design agency based in Durban, with national clients in the industrial, professional and consumer sectors. Contact Ann on tel +27 (0)31 564 6921 or email . Read the Octarine blog at