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Print Advertising: Does It Stand A Chance Against Digital?

Print is here to stay, and the data shows it has actually grown over the years

Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

How many times have we seen people posting their comments online with scanned copies of newspaper articles with highlighted sentences or encircled texts attached? This debate whether print advertising has already seen its best days, whether it’s going to die with choked breath, and whatnot, has appeared in various media in the last decade, and has actually survived. 

Although we have seen people consuming news on their PCs or smartphones, this has surprisingly not resulted in declining newspaper circulation, not at least in a country like India where the argumentative Indians’ favourite pastime is to debate on any topic, be it a new Bollywood release, or a tightly contested Cricket match, or a political controversy, with a cup of Tea in their hands and a newspaper or a magazine where the related article features is an important component of the discussion.

Advertising is one of the top five drivers of newspaper consumption, more so in the case of magazines, where more than 55% people enjoy reading Ads and they actually choose their favourite print magazine to gain information about new brands. 

Print has struggled but has been able to hold on its own, and we have seen advertisers reacting with creative campaigns that were unheard of. Many mornings, we have woken up to newspapers drenched in the aroma of coffee, or a sachet glued to the print advertisement launching a new shampoo. It was the talk of the market until half a decade ago whether newspapers, news magazines, and overall print media will survive the giant scare created by the digital world dominated by innovation in Information & Communication technologies, but the debate is more or less settled. 

Print is here to stay, and the data shows it has actually grown over the years. More mainstream and regional print publications have added millions of new readers in the last five years. In semi-urban and rural areas, the reader base has actually  increased. Print advertisements often make more impact on the reader. Advertising has gone digital because the Internet provides businesses an easy and affordable way to promote products and services, but our attention span with print advertisement is longer when reading from a magazine or newspaper.

Several research have substantiated the fact that online advertising and marketing needs complimentary power of print advertising to enable a customer to make a buying decision. Even more so in case of an expensive product buy. Thus the influence of print advertising on consumer’s buying decision is undisputed. And thus it’s widely proven that Print advertising is best for building brand credibility. 

The reason Print advertising influences buying decisions is better, is because it establishes trust. Buying is an emotional decision and customers look for that trust factor in the brand and its messaging, and this is best conveyed through print media. Thus, Print is eternal and gets ensconced in our minds, whereas digital gives a feeling of temporary or instant. Print ads act on our senses forming an imagery while digital sort of passes by. 

As for Digital advertising, the internet is more interactive and measurable in terms of its effectiveness in driving a purchase decision. From impressions to clicks, it’s easy to find out and track if the ads are getting noticed and helping to grow sales; it is flexible which means it can be changed or modified if it’s not working the way we want and can even remove it, which is not the case with Print. Digital ads can also be shared easily among our professional or personal network. 

One of the reasons as stated here why digital advertising is growing is the cost advantage that the marketer gets as compared to the print. Digital is certainly much affordable, and now comes with several options to reach the desired target audience with better accuracy.  

It is of course common knowledge that digital media provides flexibility and ease of use, and is something that has to be part of the media strategy of every company given the smartphone penetration, data speed and data plan being offered by telecom services firm, but this also established that Print has to be a major part of the marketing strategy especially for smartphones, laptops, consumer durables, kitchenware, cookware, furnishings, skincare, cosmetics, and household product segments because of the massive reach that print provides and because the purchase decision for these lifestyle products are taken jointly by the family.

Last but not least, for some reason or the other there are few things which always are most satisfying and fulfilling when done in a traditional way, and one of them is reading. Inside an aircraft on a flight, reading the newspaper and inflight magazine is the best pastime, probably second only to watching your favourite comedy series. Figures indicating sale of tablets is a case in point. It was supposed to change and drive reading habits, but it seems they are themselves being driven out of the market. Both hardcover and paperback book sales have shown a decent 6-7% growth y-o-y in recent times, while sales of e-books have decreased.

With thousands of sites and hundreds of TV channels displaying millions of advertisements, trying to catch the reader’s attention, it is the print advertisement that has weathered the test of time and survived. Digital is better for promotions and flash sales, while print is better for building long term brand credibility. Both Digital and Print advertising have their distinct advantages, so  it should be best left to a marketer’s strategic thinking of how they would like to deploy and execute the media strategy while creating a campaign.

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Written By

Sanjeev is an entrepreneur and marketing consultant with interests in Tourism & Hospitality, Lifestyle & Fashion, and Green Energy. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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