Thirty-one years ago this adman started working for traditional advertising agencies. Our sketchpad with pencil was our “creative suite” since Apple and Adobe were only fledgling companies. Everything has changed.

Each of our clients had developed a product or service and hired us to communicate the benefits to a particular audience that needed them. Nothing has changed.

Our agency had a full-time media director who researched the best way to “find” an audience. She knew almost every print publication available and could rattle off subscription rates, audience reach, and content specialty. There were no digital opportunities since there was no internet. People actually read printed publications to discover things. Everything has changed.

Today we watch the rise of online purchases and the decline of brick-and-mortar stores. Internet rules. We see how easy it is to boost a social post and then book, create, and post a digital banner ad. So newspapers and magazines struggle for subscribers (and advertisers) but many organizations still post their latest ads as part of their media buy. Nothing has changed. Or has it?

Should the church be purchasing traditional ads in printed newspapers and magazines?

Yes. No. Maybe.

Sound confusing? Because the choices are greater for opportunities, and there’s a huge complexity to understand where to “find” our audience (congregation and greater community) as they’ve become very fragmented. The facts: Everyone doesn’t read the newspaper anymore. Nor do they subscribe to the staple news magazine. Everything has changed. But nothing has really changed; we all want to take our message to people who need it.

  • People still read newspapers (24 billion are published worldwide annually). Sheepishly, I admit that I read our local newspaper daily. There’s very little news in it since they can’t generate the ad revenues to print more pages. The benefit? There are fewer ads to compete with. The negative? There are fewer people opening the pages. Is it a waste of money for you? If you reaching an older audience in your church, your local newspaper is a good place to be found. You’ll reach more grandparents in newsprint than you will on Snapchat.
  • Magazines are a bit different though with a broader audience. They usually have a very segmented audience that makes it worthwhile for you to hone your message. That’s the power of segmentation: talk directly to the readers. The more segmented the subscription base, the easier to identify a specific concern and give them the way your church will help them (ie. your local wedding planner magazine could allow you to advertise your marriage enrichment seminars). It’s also wise to be an advertiser if you’re talking with the editorial staff seeking them to write an article on you.
  • If you have a small budget and are targeting younger people, it’s probably best to use your dollars in the digital world (certainly not Yellow Pages). Social ads reach more people for a very little amount and have the ability to segment who receives the ads. However, I would challenge you to create better, professional ads that dominate the space with strong call-to-actions before you spend another dollar in advertising (digital or print). The world has so many interruptions and headlines passing by us from our phones, our televisions and our internet places, that we’ve become a world of scanners. Most read only headlines, photo captions, and callouts. Make sure your ad can interrupt those who are quickly scanning.
  • Advertising agencies create a Media Plan for an Advertising Campaign. The plan can be very complex with multiple publications containing multiple ads in a series. Or it can be fairly simple. Rarely will an agency ever recommend one publication with one ad. That’s not a campaign. We often hear churches say “we tried an ad and it didn’t work”. Note: One ad by itself will rarely work.

So how do you know which to choose for a successful ad campaign?

  1. Start by segmenting your audience (those who need what you’re offering). Be as specific by creating 2-3 top groups that easily encompass the majority of your congregation.
  2. List every place where your selected groups “probably” view or read regularly.
  3. Based on budget and importance of your event, product, or service, decide how many different ads could be created. Once someone sees an ad, they tend to skip it the next time. So consider creating multiple ads with a similar look but different images and headline.
  4. Consider the frequency of placement. This multiplies the possibilities of views from your audience. Someone might skim over an ad the first time but will see it the second time. Most large advertisers don’t have continuous ads running. Instead, they work in 13-week cycles which give the perception of always running. You simply want it to run enough to capture a lot of your audience.
  5. Use various mediums to create the campaign. Place the same (or similar) ad in your bulletin, newspaper, social media, and a local specialty magazine, for example. The “trustworthiness” of the content increases as the perception of “being everywhere” is created.

Is this easy? No. So many things are changing, but so much is the same. Find your audience and give them what they need. Digital and traditional print; because most audiences are in both locations. At least for now.