The Importance of Print Media in Today’s NPP Channel Mix

August 23, 2018

What’s Old Is New Again

In an industry surrounded by digital marketing, it’s easy to forget the importance of print media in the overall non-personal promotional (NPP) channel mix. What we as marketers often overlook is that print media can be a strategic complement to digital, and not an alternative to it. Print media has often been viewed as a foundation to most marketing plans, playing an integral part of reaching key customers.

With the rise of digital media and addressable media platforms over the past few years, that shift to put a priority on digital media makes sense. However, it is simply a shift. The advent of digital media and how advertisers are using data to drive messaging at the physician level has ushered in a new era of customer engagement. But the convenience and transparency of customer data shouldn’t displace channels that doctors and healthcare professionals are telling us are the most important to them. Doctors like to read, and they prefer to do so by seeking out print editions of medical articles and content, according to CMI/Compas Media Vitals™ research. When we step outside of professional health print journals and look at the larger overall print channel, we see similar trends and preferences for direct mail.

This report will provide a granular look at overall trends within the channel, as well as reaffirm the value and importance of print, and specifically journal media, within the overall non-personal promotion mix – not just to increase brand awareness but also to deliver professional marketing messages and advance customer knowledge.

Investment Trends

The Medical Marketing & Media (MM&M) 2018 Healthcare Marketers Trend Report states most HCP marketers continue to use journal media as part of their channel mix. While digital channels (digital ads, digital sales materials, mobile/tablet apps) are showing increases in spend year over year in this data from Kantar, investment in professional journals among marketers has also remained consistent.

Many brands are seeing the value in keeping journal media as part of a well-rounded multichannel campaign. And within the channel, marketers’ methods are continuing to evolve too, as brands make use of smaller ad units and target list-only mailings to drive cost efficiency. Not only is print a cost-effective option to manage within a campaign, but also in terms of the media investment per customer. It’s well known that one of the most cost-efficient channels for reach is broad-reach display. Even compared to this highly efficient channel, print media rises to the top in terms of efficiency when analyzing the cost per physician reached.

Balancing Ad Size with Cost

Along the lines of cost efficiency, print media is typically more influenced by content length than is digital.  Although print is an excellent vehicle through which to share longer and deeper messages, it is important to do so while also being cognizant of overall ad length and the possible PI/ISI requirements triggered by different claims.  Brands and agencies have the capacity to improve cost efficiencies by creating ad units that are smaller, wherever possible.  Brands that have multiple indications can approach print from an overall “brand” perspective, as opposed to creating unique units per indication. This approach will still capitalize on print’s ability to trigger top-of-mind brand name awareness message retention while also maximizing cost efficiencies.

CMI worked with Kantar to complete a journal ad size analysis to understand what the impact of Message Awareness, Retention and Believability were when clients used different ad sizes to promote their core campaign . The study was done using the same journals across the same 8 audiences to not compromise the results. The result of that 2-year analysis was that ad size does not show an impactful increase in message awareness, retention and believability vs. the cost of the increased ad size.  Specifically, the increase of 3-7% impact compared to a 12-24% cost increase to run the larger ad sizes meant that the efficiency gained with a smaller ad unit in journal media outweighs any meaningful impact on awareness, retention and believability. As an organization CMI has always suggested that brands consider using smaller units, so that frequency can be increased at a lower cost.

How CMI Measures Print Media and How Much Your Campaign Needs

With the rising transparency of digital media reporting, the question on pharma marketers’ minds is what is the return on investing in print media? Circulation can be very well understood, but it’s also critical to understand how HCPs are choosing to engage with print today.  CMI/Compas Media Vitals™ data indicates that HCPs are still relying heavily on print media sources, both in journals and direct mail.  CMI/Compas takes this even further by setting measurable goals for print media based on specific campaign elements, e.g. prescription volume, sales support, brand lifecycle, competitive activity, and ad unit size.  By measuring reach, frequency, and likelihood of an ad being seen by each HCP, the impact of advertising in print media can be well understood when planning even without real-time, physician-level engagement data.

But Don’t Just Take Our Word for It.  Third Party Research Shows the Value of Print too

Third party research studies conducted by both data companies and major publishers support data from CMI/Compas Media Vitals, and also attest that print media can be a strong value-add component to demonstrate readers’ recall of the ad and actions taken after seeing the ad.    Kantar Sources & Interactions report from September 2017 also shows that print editions of medical journals are a top-3 source of important information among all healthcare professionals, with 66% ranking journals as important in helping to stay abreast of new medical developments. This research shows the importance physicians still place in journal media today.

The Launches Keep Coming for New Publications

In the first half of 2017, Kantar Media reports that journal ad revenue for Medical/Surgical audiences (the specialties outside of dentistry, NP/PA, and Pharmacy) is down year over year since a peak in 2016. However, journal publisher revenue has been consistent when taking a more comprehensive view.  Over the past five years when comparing 1H 2013 to 1H 2017, their revenue has increased by 7% according to Media.  From the 2018 MM&M Healthcare Marketers Report, 22% of those surveyed reported some increase in print investment 2017.

Not only are advertisers choosing to continue advertising within existing publications, but supplier partners are choosing to invest in the launch of brand new publications. This continuing demand for new publications demonstrates the print market isn’t just treading water, but rather growing and becoming more competitive. Even in today’s environment and rapid push towards investment in digital communications, we’re still seeing established and new suppliers launch new print vehicles and a number of them are having great success.

New and Best Ways to Use Print

In addition to new publications being introduced into the marketplace, brands are also able to use existing publications in new and more targeted ways than ever before. While traditional print ads are a great way to generate brand awareness and drive key message retention, brands are increasingly looking to uncover new ways to get assets (patient savings cards, financial assistance information, etc.) in the hands of doctors. Many publications have responded to this need by offering the ability to include more complex, attention-grabbing creative pieces in the form of inserts, cover tips, belly bands, cover wraps and outserts.  By creating these types of messaging units, brands can use journals to send resources directly to the HCPs who need them.

While having the ability to distribute brand resources is undoubtedly beneficial, many brands have extremely niche audiences and paying to reach a publication’s full circulation is not the most efficient use of budget. Many journals have responded to this change in the marketplace as well by allowing advertisers to place insertions in journals sent to just a portion of the total audience (split runs) and/or to run inserts and cover wraps to target list physicians only. This offers brands the ability to take advantage of sending resources alongside reputable titles while eliminating potential waste.  According to BioPharm Communications, there is often 5-15% of a brand’s target list that cannot be reached purely through digital channels and/or do not allow rep access. Print can act as an efficient way to get brand messaging in front of these physicians who are otherwise not reached. Even for those physicians who can be reached via 1 or more other channels, targeted print offers the ability to generate additional touchpoints with high priority physicians, providing a robust multichannel experience for those HCPs.

Outside of using targeted print to distribute brand assets, direct mail is still a valued and viable option for pharma. Direct mail can be incorporated into multi-channel custom media programs such as peer-to-peer and KOL-led initiatives to improve engagement. By creating a print version of the long-form brand content, messaging can be shared with target HCPs both digitally and in print, allowing each HCP to choose how he or she prefers to engage with the content. According to the P/S/L Group’s research on their community, 80% of HCPs prefer both digital and print programs; physicians do not view these channels as “either/or.”  Additionally, overall engagement rate with P/S/L Group programs is strengthened from 10-15% to 25-35% when both digital and print are included. Similarly, the average ROI range jumps from 2-3:1 to 3-6:1 for programs that include both components, per P/S/L Group data.

When Print is Not a Fit

While print is still a valuable and reliable source of information for physicians, it is by no means a fit for every NPP campaign and product. From year to year, each brand comes with a unique story, history and set of marketing goals. In determining the right mix of channels and tactics it is imperative that brand-specific factors such as product lifecycle, target audience, budget, key performance objectives and competitive landscape are considered.

If, for example, a brand’s target audience and messaging are extremely fragmented to the point that supplier-partners’ minimum quantities cannot be met, then targeted print is likely not the most effective means of communication.  When target lists and segmentations are very specific, cost efficiencies can be lost. As is the case with digital media, targeted journal media will also have a point of diminishing return where broad reach journal media can be more efficient. If unique messaging on an HCP-level basis is critical, digital tactics may be more efficient.

In Conclusion

As an industry, there is no denying pharma continues to invest considerably in print media. While some of those investments are being made in different and innovative solutions, overall spend remains consistent.   And thanks to these cost-saving opportunities, efficient buys are more possible today than they’ve ever been.  With HCPs continuing to rank journals read in print as a top source of clinical information, both in CMI/Compas Media Vitals and third-party research data, including journal media in campaigns can still take advantage of this preference and ultimately drive engagement with your key messages.