Hearst Publications recently completed a sweepstakes promotion for ConAgra's Healthy Choice products that resulted in features and displays in a total of 1,600 supermarkets.
Called the Healthy Choice Drive for the Green Sweepstakes, it was a
reward to the Omaha, Neb.-based brand marketer for its advertising in Country Living, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful and Victoria magazines, says Mark Goldschmidt, corporate sales director at Hearst, New York.
For Goldschmidt, who oversees 15 magazine titles, the logic of linking multiple magazines under a single promotional umbrella is self-evident.
"Basically, when a magazine idea can be executed across titles and be made bigger and better by pooling all the company's resources, why not do it?" he says.
Savvy brand marketers routinely ask magazines for merchandising or value-added in-store programs when they place print advertising. Such deal-sweeteners have become a key competitive issue for both parties.
But when the goal is to do more in the store, the level of ad activity for a single brand in a single publication is rarely high enough to justify a meaningful presence. That's why Hearst and many other publishers are putting together multititle or multibrand programs designed to bring big, memorable and effective added value to an ad campaign.
Such umbrella, or corporate-level, promotions are often positioned as an added value for a group advertising buy or dangled as an incentive for a bigger ad commitment. Still others are expanded from ideas that are considered too promising to confine to small-scale activities.
Michael Clinton, corporate sales director at Conde Nast, New York, defines its corporate program as one that is "designed to bring efficiencies and stronger synergy to the ad buy." He said Conde Nast uses its extensive subscriber data base for research and to support sampling programs, making it a leading source of added value for its advertisers.
Obviously, for a promotion to work within a publishing company, the titles must fit together. Hearst's Good Housekeeping and Popular Mechanics team up annually as authorities on home maintenance for a multimedia Mall Tour, which includes a dozen shows across the country over a six-
month period. With highly visible booths where magazine "representatives" demonstrate products, cook food, show videos and distribute samples and coupons, interactive selling is at its finest.
With titles like Better Homes and Gardens, Country America, Midwest Living and Ladies' Home Journal, Meredith Corp., Des Moines, Iowa, is highly positioned for multimagazine promotions. The company has created a Custom Marketing Division that devotes itself entirely to designing promotions that will entice brand marketers to buy into the programs. These include advertising in several Meredith magazines almost as an aside.
A typical Meredith program includes a digest-sized recipe booklet that sells in the store at point-of-purchase for several months. A pared-down version then runs in several of the company's magazines with reprints available as a gift with purchase. Meredith can then turn the booklet into a hard-cover book and distribute it through its own book clubs and regular retail book stores.
Bill Murphy, senior vice president and director of Meredith Custom Marketing, cites the company's seven-year history and the many successes it has had with companies like Kraft, Kikkoman, ConAgra and, most recently, the Florida Department of Citrus as evidence of the programs' effectiveness.
"When we first started out, people had a wait-and-see attitude," he says, adding that even on an internal level, people foresaw too many obstacles to make the division work. "But once you begin to build and flawlessly execute custom programs, your reputation spreads."
Many magazines consider their grasp of the marketing process for their specific market as part of their added-value offerings.
"We use a knowledge-based approached to marketing," Murphy says. "We don't tell advertisers what is right for them, but rather that we know
about the needs of our readers and understand what consumers want and expect. Real selling is not based on media but on knowledge."
Time Warner's Sports Illustrated for Kids prides itself on its knowledge of a specific market -- young readers. "We have an expertise and knowledge of advertising to kids that advertisers might not have and that agencies don't have ready access to," says Martin Bounds, marketing director at SI For Kids, New York. "So if we're asked to consult on the creative or to extend a client's efforts in a way that suits them and our magazine, we'll do that."
Added-value programs can range from sweepstakes to wall calendars to celebrity appearances. Cooking Light uses a 68-foot tractor-trailer truck to take its added-value program on the road. With planned stops at supermarkets in major markets across the United States, consumers tour the onboard kiosks of a dozen sponsors, take recipe cards and coupons and walk right into the supermarkets to buy ingredients for that night's dinner. Sponsors can extend the impact of the tour by setting up sampling or demonstrations inside the store on the same day.
"The fact that the Ask Cooking Light promotion guaranteed in-store display for our products was a big reason we participated in their program," said Scott Nesbitt, marketing manager for new products at Andrew Jergens, Cincinnati, one of a dozen brands that participated in a recent tour. "It's also a bonus for us when we can cross-promote our products at the corporate level."
Both Woman's Day and Family Circle have their own versions of the in-store umbrella promotion with Woman's Day Sample Fest and Family Circle's Sample This. Similar to the mall tour, the magazine sets up a station inside selected supermarkets where several brand marketers can participate in wet and dry sampling, contests and other giveaways.
Lynn Chaiken, vice presidetn of marketing at Woman's Day, sees these promotions as trendy. "For a while, everyone was doing advertorials. Then it was sampling. Then in-store. It becomes cyclical."
Joel Kushins, media director at New York-based ad agency Bozell Inc., says he finds relevance and usefulness in umbrella promotions, but that he continues to evaluate each one on its own merits. "When these promotions are viewed as alternatives to price reduction, they offer something valuable when they are properly conducted," he says, but adds that in some instances, when the promotions are designed for equal visibility, they might pass on them for clients who want stand-alone attention.
James River Corp. has participated in Family Circle's Sample This umbrella program. Chrys Tsilibes, associate brand manager of the company's Dixie Kids line, says the experience has shown her how promotions like this can leverage a brand's advertising overall.
"Plus, you get the benefit of the magazine's name and reputation in-store," she says. "For a new product introduction, it enhances your chances to gain awareness."
Charlie Decker, executive director of the Milk Processors Education Program, Washington, says the group seeks every opportunity to take its message from the page to the consumer. "When you have faith in your product and the opportunity to present it first-hand, that's the ultimate place to make sales," he says.
Good Housekeeping offers a variety of added-value promotions to advertisers, says Alan Waxenberg, publisher. He observes that the initiative comes frequently from the brand markters.
"Some are standard and are available to everyone who qualifies, and others are more tailor-made to specific advertisers. Quite often, we are the ones who are approached with an idea and asked to execute it," he says.
While some added-value programs are free to advertisers, most require a basic advertising commitment and some carry an additional charge. Even at the cost of an additional page of advertising, a single brand usually can't match the exposure it gets and the benefit it receives from the association with the magazine title when it participates in one of these programs.
"When Popular Mechanics demonstrates a product at a mall tour," says Bill Congdon, the magazine's marketing director, "it creates a lasting impression that translates into retail sales. Consumers recognize the Popular Mechanics name as one they trust."
Leo Scullen, president of Scullen & Co., a media consultancy in New York, sees the trend toward these events and types of promotions continuing mainly because "they are effective." He points out that magazines have taken the budgets they used to use to promote themselves to the advertising community and invested them in these types of programs.
"With these added-value events, the magazine can see an increase in subscriptions and in trade relations while the advertisers can see positive sales results and consumer interaction. They work for all the right reasons."
Woman's Day's Chaiken, who is also responsible for corporate marketing at the magazines's parent company, Hachette Filipacchi, New York, says, "The best added-value occurs when the product's marketing goals are furthered by what the magazine offers. Anything else isn't worth doing."
James River's Tsilibes won't change her media plans for an added-value promotion, she says, "because you can't really measure them. In a make-or-break situation a promotion may influence us, but in the end, we'll go with the magazine that delivers our target."
Adds Jergens' Nesbitt, "We look at all the sampling programs that magazines offer. The availability of a sampling program is enough to put you over the edge, with all else being equal. It's not enough to get us in a magazine that we don't belong in."