Archive for July, 2009

Fueling Magazines’ Failures

July 20th, 2009 No comments

As September drop-deads are upon us, I’m hearing a lot about tumbling circulations and ad pages continuing to fade from magazines.  While it’s true that advertising budgets are trending downward, we have to remember that this started long ago.  Before big government bailouts, unemployment surges, mass foreclosures, and the fall of the auto industry, the once booming magazine industry has been quietly suffering.

The strength of magazines didn’t take such an immediate pummeling from things like the mass adoption of the internet as it’s printed sibling newspapers did.  But as more consumers’ dollars were allocated to cell phones and broadband connections, magazines began to see circulations decrease.  In early desperation, some publications falsified audit reports or inflated verified circulations, dumping titles in unnecessary public places.  They began to lose the faith of their advertising partners, and some began to close.

Planners paying attention began demanding cleaner circulations along with deeper discounts, free space, premium placement, product integration, cross-platform opportunities.  With the negative press, they had to deliver greater ROI to clients.  Even titles which had historically refused to negotiate began making “special exceptions” and “finding loopholes.”

While a great value for clients and making the negotiator look like hot-stuff, the additional decrease in revenue only fueled magazines’ woes.  Combined with the economy’s hard fall, titles both young and old began to announce last issues.  Those same planners once considered savvy are now finding themselves knocked for buying “cheap space” in a title that didn’t survive.  (Shameless Plug: Check out Magazine Death Pool for more dirt.)

Today, clients are uncertain of budgets, don’t trust signing annual plans and don’t know which title is going to be cut next.  Their lower budgets are still forcing even higher ROI expectations, yet the lack of commitment means positioning can rarely be negotiated, decreasing the medium’s value.  Of course, that means they’ll need to balance that loss with even bigger discounts and more free pages.

As a media planner, I jokingly used to say that I was a “media fundraiser” to folks not in advertising.  (Lest I be asked, again, if I write the commercials.)  Today, I wonder if I should’ve spent more time focusing on getting those funds approved, and a little less time doing multiple rounds of negotiations with titles I was forcing out of business.

Experian Simmons: You learn something new everyday

July 10th, 2009 No comments

I had a rather upsetting conversation with (what was) one of my favorite consumer and marketing research providers yesterday. 

I called Simmons (an Experian product), simply curious how much it would cost to gain access to their research.  I’m considering purchasing some consumer data, because I like being smart and I like writing about smart things.  I’m also working on a few independent ventures, and believe even the smallest “shop” needs to pony up some cash for research if they need it.  (Does anyone have a pony I can sell for research?)

After finding my contact was void (what? in this economy?), I was routed and rerouted and put on hold.  Finally, I was put through to a “woman” (the quotes are me being nice) who could tell me how much it costs.  I would tell you, except I still don’t know.  Also, please don’t think I’m being nice to her by omitting her name; she never told it to me.  I would have asked, but she was so short, I thought there might be a gnarly bear standing in her office, waiting with claws out.  I did, however, leave out the costs she quoted me in respect of her obvious fear.  (The below is paraphrased; it all happened so fast!)

“First,” she informed me, “you have to pay for an Experian membership.”  

For a minute, I thought I had another wrong person, “Experian membership?  For Simmons research?”

With a big sigh, she replied, “Simmons is a part of Experian, mam, so yes.  Then, you have to pay for the commercial building inspection.  Then..”

Now I was really confused, “Wait.  Commercial what?”

“Commercial building inspection.  We have to come and inspect your building for security purposes.”

“I don’t have a building.  I own a house and I work in my pajamas.”

“You work out of your home?”


As soon as she realized that I was at home, her shortness diminished to brashness.  At one point, I thought she was going to just hang up, but I still wanted to know how much it cost.  I pleaded that to get a commercial building, I would have to write a business proposal and include how much my resources were going to cost as a part of that.  She explained that I had to be already established, and in a commercial building, before she could even talk to me.

I apologized for keeping her on the phone and let her go before the bear attacked.  I hope she got out okay, but I was left standing in my kitchen, wondering wtf had even just happened.  Did I really just have such an outdated conversation, with what’s supposed to be a forward thinking research company?  They’re going to tell me how consumers are thinking, acting, and spending, while they don’t even support an independent, work-from-home, entrepreneurial workforce, like the one that’s exploding right now due to the recession?

Really, Experian/Simmons?  Are you even paying attention at all?

I might not have gotten my question answered on how much it costs to pay for their research, but I guess it doesn’t matter since I don’t want a commercial building.  It did, however, explain why they’re not on twitter, either.


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Layoffs Bring Out The Best

July 6th, 2009 No comments

I have good news, and I have bad news.  On my upside, I have free time these days to publish here again.  On my downside, I was laid off. 

I don’t want to dwell on it with a sob-fest; there’s plenty of that going around.  Despite the shame and disappointment I intermittently feel, it’s easy to hold my head high knowing that I went with a lot of good company.  From both my beloved advertising industry and across the country, an astounding 467,000 cuts were made in June, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  That takes the total unemployed in the U.S. to 14.7M, and brings the National Unemployment Rate to 9.5%.  Of those, 4.4M (or 30%) have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer visit

There are lighter sides to those statistics as well.  It was only a 0.1 percentage point change from May, showing that a lot of those unemployed (312k of them) have found new jobs.  June may have been down from the month prior, but it was still a little up from April.

There’s certainly a fight out there, and it’s stronger than ever.  As an agency professional, I felt it in the passion of every new business pitch.  From an outsider, even one not looking for a new gig just yet, the fierce competition among that mob of unemployed is enough to surge anyone (even modestly motivated) towards (perhaps) the unknown.

While part of me still mourns belonging to the agency I no longer contribute to, another part of me is refreshed.  Exhilarated.  Confident.  And, for the first time since graduating from college and moving South, free to go and do whatever fate allows.

Categories: Advertising Tags: