“Print Media is definitely under-valued by toy companies,” states Julie Jones, publishing director of Redan Publishing. “I understand that most of their budget has to go to TV advertising for retail purposes, but they’re really missing out by not using magazines more.”
Jones’ view is one which is, perhaps not unsurprisingly, shared by her peers. But, used alongside the traditional TV advertising, print is a very effective medium when it comes to getting your brand in front of not only kids, but their parents, too. And, while the magazine market as a whole decreased slightly in retail sales value in 2008 over 2007, the children’s sector actually grew and was worth around £127 million in 2008.
“The children’s magazine market is the third biggest magazine category by volume behind women’s magazines and TV listings and 61 million children’s magazines are sold a year,” states Sam Vernon, group ad sales manager at Egmont Magazines.
Despite the sheer size of the sector, however, it hasn’t remained untouched by the wider global economic issues.
“Sales since September 2008 have been quite erratic – I think this is the economic climate where parents are making cut backs,” admits Jones. “Rather than two or three magazines, they’re buying just one, so competition is fierce. Parents are also taking more notice of titles that offer the best value for money.”
Luckily, print media has many factors working in its favour.
It is the only actively purchased medium for one. Back to Jones again: “Parents with young children know and trust print media.
“They were brought up reading print themselves and know that there are no hidden dangers or complicated instructions that they themselves aren’t sure about.
“Magazines are interactive, tactile, affordable and disposable, so parents don’t mind if they get scribbled all over or ripped up.”
Egmont’s Vernon adds: “Magazines complement TV advertising and do a different job – TV is all about impact and mass awareness and magazines allow longer to dwell through the activities and interactive content. 56 per cent of parents also keep children’s magazines and refer back to them, meaning that any advertising works really hard for potential advertisers. The advertising/editorial ratio is small – we carry a max of three ad pages in our pre-school magazines and four to five in our own brand titles – so adverts in kids’ magazines have tremendous stand out.
“Children today are sophisticated mini-consumers, so access many different types of media including TV, print, online and radio. To ensure the message reaches them, advertisers need to communicate to them on many different levels in the same way that grown up brands do with companies spanning TV, print and outdoor.”
Lessons in learning
The educational aspects of print media are also a big plus point where parents are concerned.
Parents have understood the importance of using pre-school titles to help teach their children the core skills they are going to need for school for some time now, and the educational element is a clear factor in their purchasing decision,” says James Willmott from Titan Publishing, which boasts a packed portfolio of licensed titles including The Simpsons Comic, Spongebob Squarepants Comic and LazyTown.
Chris Dicey, group account director at John Brown Media, which publishes Sky Kids – the largest circulating kids’ magazine in the UK with an ABC of 762,254 – believes that there is still a real desire among parents to give their children magazines.
“Parents are reassured that their children are actively engaging with the product, putting pen to paper, encouraging reluctant readers and working out puzzles, and the children love to find all of their favourite stuff in a format that isn’t too daunting,” Dicey offers.
“Where TV and online can be media that is regulated by parents, print is definitely a medium that parents are happy to see their children with.”
Education is also a key selling point for Redan Publishing’s Jones: “For our pre-school titles, our brand is Fun to Learn and we pride ourselves on the fact that our titles follow the National Curriculum’s Early Years Foundation Stages,” she comments.
“Parents recognise this, and we get lots of feedback telling is how our magazines help children to get a head start in early learning skills such as reading, writing, counting and matching.”
Finding the right title
So what advice can the publishers give to potential toy advertisers on where best to place their budget?
“If it’s straightforward ads you’re after you just need to go for the highest selling titles that specifically target your audience,” continues Jones. “If you’re looking for a campaign to run over a period of time that appears in several, different titles, you need to look at which publishers offer the best range and most support in conceptualising your ideas and converting them into print.”
Titan’s Willmott recommends communicating with the customer in the same language that is presented to them in the magazine.
“So if a reader has bought a comic book to read a comic strip, present your message to them in a comic strip. If a product is complicated or has several USPs then take time to present it in an engaging advertorial creative solution.”
Added value in the form of covermounts, competitions, product placement, reviews and giveaways are also recommended as part of an overall campaign.
“A high quality cover gift is integral to the overall package; good gifts must always be safe to use, relevant, on brand and age appropriate,” chips in Egmont’s Vernon.
Toni Round, MD of BBC Children’s Magazines – which boasts the In The Night Garden, Doctor Who and Cbeebies Weekly titles in its well-stocked portfolio – adds: “We talk to toy companies all the time to demonstrate that we can offer something complementary to TV. Not instead of, we’d never try to replace it because it’s a very attractive and a very good medium for them. I think the overriding challenge for the whole of the magazine industry is the short-term economic climate and making sure that we can be the best product and continue to make the magazines high value for money and attractive.
“Also to identify which are the brands that will have real cut-through, seeing that early and committing to doing a magazine. You have to be as sure as one can be that when you do a standalone title it’s going to have real resonance and it’s going to work.
“That’s harder nowadays because there are so many magazines being published and I think it will just continue to get more and more competitive.”
It seems that there will always be a place for magazines in kids’ lives though. “Print media continues to be exceptionally flexible and perceived as a safe and trusted medium for kids,” concludes John Brown’s Dicey.
“Solutions can be tailored to fit the publications involved for individual advertisers.”