Blog - Written by on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 12:49

With Marketing Budgets Slashed, Co-op and Web Take Priority

By Chris Artis

With the recent economic downturn, book advertising — in the traditional sense at least — is on the decline. The majority of US publishers have cut their marketing budgets by 50-70% over the last year. What’s more, while some ad prices have been depressed, prices have not dropped far enough to make them a viable way to advertise most books: a full-page color ad in a leading national publication still costs somewhere in the range of $100,000, while a single 30-second spot on a network television morning talk show goes for a cool $50,000 price tag — prices steep enough to blow even the most generous book marketing budget in a single shot.

“The relatively small size of consumer ad budgets has traditionally made it tough for advertising to stand alone as the lynch pin of book’s success,” says Betsy Hulsebosch, Managing Director of Launchpad LLC, a marketing and publishing consultancy company.

While few in the industry want to openly discuss the issue of declining marketing budgets, a survey by Publishing Perspectives among publishing and ad execs in the United States revealed that one stable area of the marketing spend is on “co-op,” or the cash paid to retailers for a premium in-store display, such as on tables, end caps or in windows.

The prevailing wisdom still holds that most people walk into a store with no idea what they want to read, so it remains crucial to catch the customer’s attention as soon as possible. Those eyeballs don’t come cheap, though. It can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars per week, per title, for premium placement within a single national retail chain. It’s money which most publishers still consider money well spent.

What money remains in marketing budgets is largely being directed toward online ads and campaigns, efforts that are becoming increasingly prevalent, even for high profile titles.

In particular, publishers are finding online campaigns are especially effective at generating pre-pub publicity for titles. One example, offered by Carolyn Schwartz, VP director of advertising and promotion for the Random House Publishing Group, is Random House’s pre-publication advertising campaign for the forthcoming January hardcover, The Superstress Solution, which includes, among other things, multiple banner ads that ran in recent issues of PW Daily, a daily trade email newsletter.

Still, for many marketing execs raised on traditional print and television media, not to mention agents and authors who demand the prestige of the print ad, online marketing can still be perceived as a compromise, something done as an inexpensive alternative to more costly print and television campaigns — a perception that remains difficult to change.

“If done right, a new media campaign will achieve better reach and frequency at a lower price, with results that are more easily quantified,” argues Michael Kazan, managing director of Verso Advertising, a firm that serves several major publishing houses with online marketing services.

Kazan cites Verso’s 2008 pre-publication internet campaign for Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, as one such example. The campaign, which cost about $25,000, served up over five million ad impressions. The result was some 99,000 downloads of samples from the book and the harvesting of some 60,000 web users and 13,000 individual names and emails that were re-targeted on publication date. It’s hard to validate, but Kazan believes that this campaign is what helped propel the title directly to the top spot on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction list (a first for Friedman), where it remained for a month during the highly competitive fall 2008 season.

More recently, Verso partnered with Burst Media to create Verso Reader Channels, customizable networks designed to target a book’s specific market. Each channel is an aggregate of websites covering specific subjects — from Business and Finance to Women’s Romance — and are designed to optimize reach and frequency. A one million “impression” Reader Channel campaign starts at about $6,000.

Those who remain skeptical about the effectiveness of online advertising may do well to consider the results of study by Kelley Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services at RR Bowker, that he presented this May at the Book Industry Study Group’s Sixth Annual Making Information Pay conference. Gallagher’s research revealed that of 30,000 consumers who were asked in what medium they were first made aware of a new book, 54.1% cited online/internet advertising, while only 21.2% said TV, radio, and newspaper magazine advertising.

Indeed, this small sample goes a long way to prove that far from remaining an advertising backwater, new media placement may very well deliver the best bang for what’s left of the publishing ad bucks.


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