It's Not Your Father's Magazine Ad: Magnitude and Direction of Recent Changes in Advertising Style
By Edward F. McQuarrie and Barbara J. Phillips
"Future magazine ads “now have to be entertaining and reward the consumer, but from the standpoint of the advertiser, success remains ultimately a matter of increasing the probability of brand purchase."
Date: Fall 2008
Source: Journal of Advertising, 37 (3), pgs.95-106.
Type of Promotional Material/Activity Tested: Using content analysis of magazine ads highlighted in a series of nine studies conducted from 1969-2002 by Philip Burton (1969) and Scott Purvis and Philip Burton (2002) entitled, “Which Ad Pulled Best?” provided opportunities to observe changes in printed magazine advertising styles and overall effectiveness of printed magazine advertising styles.
Methodology: Researchers working with nine editions of “Which Ad Pulled Best,” each ad appearing in all of the nine editions were coded and scored using the following measures:
1. Content analysis – Coding the ads were evaluated using the following parameters:
Use of pictures (and space utilization): 75%, 50-74%, and less than 50%
Body copy (text): minimal or no body copy, substantial body copy, more than half a page of copy
- Brand name: did brand name appear in the headline or in the picture? Did brand name stand alone or separate block in ad?
- Use of picture window: Was ad a picture window, or not?
2. Copy testing – Using scores differentiated by sex (men and women), the ad copy was evaluated using the following criteria:
Ad effectiveness: “ability of the ad to stop and hold the audience’s retention to the advertiser’s name.”
Researchers based trend analysis on ad content using the following parameters:
- Is a trend over time visible?
- Is the trend in place throughout the period, or does it originate at some later point?
It was inferred that consumer ads were to be more likely to have a dominant picture and to portray the brand only in picture form, and, that B2B ads were more likely to contain substantial body copy and to mention the brand in the headline along with having a stand-alone brand block.
Analysis from the nine “Which Ad Pulls Best” report suggests that magazine advertisements directed at consumers change significantly over time (1969-2002).
A dominate picture placed tends to assume a primary role compared to the textual elements:
Separate blocks of elements placed in a linear for vertical fashion were replaced with integrated pictorial layouts
Brand elements, over time, moved from textual content into the pictorial portion of an ad
Many of the changes mentioned above tended to occur during the late 1990s.
- Separate blocks of elements placed in a linear for vertical fashion were replaced with integrated pictorial layouts
Research analysis posits that after the mid-90s, picture dominate ads became more effective in advertising finesse, whereas picture dominate ads were less effective before the early 80s.
Research analysis suggests that ads with substantial body copy were notably less effective.
Stylistic changes are attributed to changes in external culture, combined with social and technological factors.
- It is argued that the stylistic changes were a direct result of technology (having the ability to place text over a dominate picture versus earlier elementary paste-up and darkroom techniques).
The consumer today, at best, is only going to glance at an ad -- body copy becomes superfluous. Reading an ad takes effort, glancing at a picture on an ad is easy. Brand placement in picture form has a more pronounced effect than embedded within textual copy.
“Because consumers are no longer prospects learning what to purchase, but simply viewers who will at some later point find themselves in a store needing to replenish themselves of a good, it s more powerful to visually reproduce the brand-package-product, rather than simple state the brand name.”
- Future magazine ads “now have to be entertaining and reward the consumer, but from the standpoint of the advertiser, success remains ultimately a matter of increasing the probability of brand purchase.”
Complexity rating: 2 out of 3 (Complex statistical analysis scale: 1= none, 2= moderate, 3 = difficult)
This journal article available on a pay-per-view basis from the publisher M.E. Sharpe.