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01 October 2018

Madden: Print More Relevant Than Ever

Print is more relevant than ever because of the  high levels of trust placed in it by users, in stark contrast to digital media, and its unique ability to communicate in different cognitive modes, BBH London strategy partner Richard Madden has argued.

In a piece for Print Power, Mr Madden  cited research that shows that print media is one of the only media that is able to influence both consumers who are casually browsing and those who are deeply engaged in the medium, making it a unique asset for advertisers.   

Richard said: “System 1 thinking is the kind we use most of the time. In System 1 we are not consciously focused on problem-solving. Instead, we lazily rely on mental rules-of-thumb (“heuristics” is the posh word) to navigate the world around us. Only when we are truly engaged in a task that is new to us do we enter our high-attention System 2 mode.

“We have traditionally considered print advertising as influencing us only when we are in System 2 mode. As a consequence, it is often seen as the medium for conveying information and making reasoned arguments. However, new research shows that it also communicates while we are in System 1 mode. It is one of the only media able to do both.”

Mr Madden, who delivered the keynote speech at Newsworks Effectiveness Summit earlier this year, also pointed to print media’s ability to deliver trust for brands, in sharp to contrast to social media, as trust in institutions and brands drops.

He added: “There are many reasons for this. Principal among them is the editorial environment. People pay for newspapers and magazines, and while they accept or even enjoy the bias exhibited by their preferred titles, they also expect a certain degree of accuracy. The Mediacom study cited above shows that 70 percent of people trust magazines, whereas only 30 percent of people trust social media above magazine media.

“At BBH, press advertising has played an important role in helping us restore trust in large UK brands such as Tesco. In this case, the primary driver in its recovery was a robust and insight-driven strategy, but print played a big part. For Tesco, we prompted customers to reappraise their perception of the brand’s food quality by associating it with emotional moments in their lives.”

Mr Madden concluded: “At BBH, some of our most famous ads have made use of print’s ability to land a rational message while leaving a lasting emotional impression, even among those who are just lazily browsing the title.

“Much of our Audi work, for example, combines a factual product point with an image that forms a powerful emotional imprint, sometimes without requiring the reader to even notice the copy. Which, as a former copywriter, is somewhat galling.

“It is possible to argue that more has changed in the world of media in the 30 years since Tim Berners-Lee codified the principles of the World Wide Web than in the 500 years since William Caxton invented moveable type.

“While the latter would be astounded by the achievements of the digital era, he would surely take quiet satisfaction from the fact that so many modern communicators believe print is more relevant than ever.”