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Five minutes with Magnetic's CEO Sue Todd

30 Oct 2020  |  Michaela Jefferson 
Five minutes with Magnetic's CEO Sue Todd

Speaking to Mediatel News, Todd addresses the mismatch between the effectiveness of magazines and adspend in the media, the ongoing progress in the attention debate, and what she expects the future of magazine brands to look like

It’s been almost six years since you joined Magnetic, the marketing body for consumer magazines, as CEO. What has been the most interesting thing you’ve learnt in this time about magazine media?

If I had to pick one thing, it’s seeing up close the importance and value of people’s passions and how much attention, time and money they allocate to them.

Our work in 2018 with Enders Analysis - ‘The Passion Pound’ - showed that the only growth in discretionary spend in the UK was on people’s passions. This was matched by a growth in the time consumers were spending on their special interest, be it cycling, cooking, crafting, fitness, fashion, film or fell walking.

We’ve seen this accelerated through Covid with a rise in demand for magazine content shown in the latest PAMCo survey and Touchpoints, especially amongst younger audiences.

Last year, Magnetic launched its ‘Pay Attention’ campaign to highlight benefits of quality attention to media planners and marketers, and earlier this year, agencies and publishers gathered for the launch of the Attention Council. With the 'attention' debate now firmly on the agenda, have you seen a shift in attitudes, or any changes thus far in the way that advertising campaigns are being planned?

Attention has moved firmly to the centre of the debate around the value of different digital environments, which is really important and gratifying. It means work other than our own is validating what we’ve long suspected about how much more attention magazine environments command.

The IAB study with eye-tracking specialists Lumen showed that being in a premium content environment is the single biggest driver of ad attention, generating three times more.

There’s also increasing evidence showing the link between attention and effectiveness.

Mike Follet recently laid out why environment is everything when it comes to attention and that we have to earn it. Our own work ‘Home Truths’ found that advertising in contextually relevant environments get eight times the double takes, and we found similar results in car magazines with our 'Accelerate' study.

Mike’s point is also why partnership work in magazine media gets such great results. Highly relevant, contextually matched and penned and crafted with the audience in mind.

Every year when we do our Spotlight Awards, I’m always delighted to see the level of innovation coming from publishers and clients, and the strong results for brands. Whilst I can’t give anything away, the diverse range of advertisers and campaigns shortlisted is testament to the power of magazine channels delivering communication objectives.

From Dulux, BMW, Winalot, Very, Yorkshire Tea, Nationwide, Sky, Department for Education, and Voxi – the work shows just how valuable attention gained in a relevant environment is for brands.

The latest IPA TouchPoints data has revealed that magazines’ online reach is up 7%, while among 15-24 year olds, reach increased from 22% to 27%, and time spent with magazines increased from 44 minutes to 56 minutes. Do you think these figures will be maintained as (or if) we come out of lockdown?

Media consumption has increased for all ‘indoor’ channels over Covid-19, with the extra time we’ve nabbed from our commutes diverted to entertainment (and not just TV viewing) that supports the things we love - fitness, cooking, home décor etc.

Routines will change again as we come out of the various tiers of lockdown and so will media consumption, but we won’t go back to the same patterns from the start of 2020.

Some of these new behaviours therefore will stick. I believe we’ll hold onto those new audiences as people continue to flock to find content that aligns with their new or rediscovered passions.

PAMCo supports the Touchpoints data in terms of digital growth, and I think the boost that publishers have found in print subscriptions will also prevail.

We’ve seen consumers shift their reading habits towards content that aligns with their new lockdown and post-lockdown hobbies - what does this mean for advertisers?

There is a brilliant opportunity for advertisers to use the positive and authentic environments that magazines offer. We know from research by Hearst that magazine audiences are more positive, and that positive people are more likely to buy new products and services.

Magazine audiences are also more financially resilient, so there is a strong case for advertisers to be embracing our digital environments right now. New work produced for EffWeek from advertising research gurus Orlando Wood, Peter Field and Mike Follett made a strong case for using high attention and ‘right brain’ advertising channels.

Our own neuro-insight work has shown that advertising in magazines delivers on emotional intensity (a right brain metric) and work from the IAB shows that online published media environments score higher on attention. A win for magazine environments on emotional intensity, attention and therefore effectiveness, which is a win for advertisers.

Although advertising investment in magazine media has been steadily declining for a number of years, the downwards trend has been accelerated by Covid. The most recent AA/Warc adspend report expected UK adspend in magazine brands to fall by -24.2% year-on-year in 2020, after an -11.9% YoY decline in Q1. Are you concerned about the future of magazine media, and why/why not?

It's true there is a mismatch between the effectiveness of magazine media and magazine advertising spend. This was first highlighted by the Radiocentre’s ‘Re-evaluating Media’ study, and our 2019 ‘Attention Pays’ work shows the profit ROI rewards advertisers could achieve if they increase magazine investment.

Businesses are overhauling strategies around Covid, throwing away old assumptions and looking with increased rigour at which channels drive response. Two areas that have been very resilient in print this past six months are inserts and DR advertising more broadly. Ecommerce and affiliate marketing has also been healthy throughout 2020 for publishers.

This shows that the increased time spent with magazine content both off and online is driving strong results for advertisers who are at the hard end of effectiveness and measuring response.

It’s important to remember that magazine brands are very diverse businesses, and ad spend isn’t the whole picture. Plenty of top-selling magazine titles are hitting the century mark – Vogue (104 yrs old), Country Life (123), Amateur Gardening (136), Woman’s Weekly (109) and Radio Times (97).

Add in the digital growth coming from younger audiences and there’s a healthy long-term picture for magazine brands.

With consumer habits having rapidly evolved during this period, what do you expect the future of magazine media to look like?

Magazines brands will increasingly orientate their businesses towards content that connects, content that feeds deep rooted passions and interests, be that fashion, food or football, mindfulness, make-up or Minecraft.

Yes, editors will continue to satisfy the appetite for this authentic content via print titles, but the ways in which people can engage will further diversify and the commercial opportunities will become richer and multi-layered.

Data will layer in simplicity so it’s easier for advertisers to find the audience, context and commercial opportunity to best suit their KPIs.

What is your biggest hope for the future of the media and advertising industry?

Action rather than just debate around inclusion is long overdue and seems to be genuinely moving from the side-lines to front and centre of some businesses policies. This reaches into every place where a person’s ethnicity, social background, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, age or just plain quirkiness excludes them from feeling they belong or are accepted and heard.

Channel 4 has taken some strong action, as have many magazine publishers, with sign-ups to Creative Access and commitment from a number of brands to broaden editorial representation.

Empire recently announced a regular black film column and Cosmopolitan has signed up black writers Candice Braithwaite and Sophie Williams.

Covid has reminded me that what brings joy, colour and inspiration to my life is variety and difference. Being confined in terms of activity, people and space makes for frankly a less joyful and stimulating existence, and I think this is also true of workplaces in terms of diversity and inclusion.

I hope Covid and resulting economic pressures don’t usurp or distract our industry from this crucial and much needed change.

Oh, and that everyone enjoys a subscription to at least one magazine at home in their Christmas stocking this year!

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