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Ad Sales Wisdom from Life

Posted on Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 9:37 PM

Gleaning content marketing ideas from the past.

By William Dunkerley

This is a topic that invites your active participation. I'd like you to respond with comments.

In two previous issues we've explored the idea of using content marketing to sell ads. In fact, the article title in March was "Use Content Marketing to Sell Ads." In April we explored several ways of doing that under the heading "The Marketing of Advertising."

This time we're trying something new. Or perhaps you might say it's really something old. I happened across an archived copy of an old Life magazine from 1965. And right up front in that issue is a two-page letter from the ad director touting the many advantages of advertising in Life.

At first I wondered why the publisher was allowing such detailed technical talk about ad industry matters. Surely few readers would care about this. But then I came upon the fine print at the bottom of the page:

"Note: This memo appears only in the copies of Life that go to you and our other friends in the advertising and agency business."

So the letter looked and felt like an integral part of the issue, but only the advertisers got it.

The text of the letter is presented below for your perusal. After reading it, I'd like to hear from you. Please tell me what you think of this exemplar of how content marketing was presented to the advertisers. And also give me your feedback on the content of the letter. Does it contain any ideas that are relevant now, almost 50 years after the issue was published? Or are there any modern analogs of those ideas using any of the new technologies we've developed in the interim?

We'll be back in a future issue to present an analysis of the Life content marketing effort -- and hopefully we'll be able to include your input.

So here without further ado is the letter:

"Memo from James Jay Dunn, Ad Sales Director

"April 23, 1965

"Life today is a far more flexible advertising medium than it has ever been before, due chiefly to the rapid growth of our regional edition program.

"The issue you now hold, for example, is just one of 60 separate editions we are publishing this week as part of our 26 market program. In all, regional advertising now accounts for $30 million a year in advertising revenue, approximately one out of every five dollars that advertisers invest in Life.

"In 1961, when regional advertising programs were just getting off the ground, such figures would have sounded fantastic. Yet in just four years, while the total magazine advertising investment was increasing 19.2 percent, regional advertising for all magazines went up 133 percent -- and Life regional advertising went up 265 percent.

"Today Life leads among all magazines in share of the total regional expenditure with 21.4 percent of the market. TV Guide is second with 9 percent. Others include Look at 8.7 percent; Post, 6.7 percent; McCall's, 5 percent; and Reader's Digest, 4.3 percent

"To give you some idea of how far Life is ahead of the rest of the field in this area so important to advertisers, we would rank eighth, on regional revenue alone, among all national magazines' total revenue, ahead of Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, BusinessWeek, and Better Homes & Gardens.

"Life's regional edition story is a case history of a new product introduction that matches in excitement and results some of the best of our advertisers' files. The reason for its success, I believe, is not only the magazine's editorial vitality but the careful design of our program four years ago. When we expanded our regional facilities, we did so along the lines of Nielsen's well-known marketing areas. With these as a base, we made other adjustments to take into account chain store distribution patterns and even transportation and warehousing facilities.

"The result was a division of Life's circulation in 226 prime marketing areas, each built around one or more major metropolitan areas where Life's distribution is most heavily concentrated. The value to advertisers of our regional structure was later attested to by Curtis and McCall's, both of whom adopted exactly the same dividing lines for their own regional programs.

"Life's 26 market program offers a flexibility that assists advertisers in solving highly individual marketing problems. They can use America's most persuasive and efficient national advertising force for selective, sectional sales emphasis. They can use it to pack extra sales punch where it's needed; to test new products, new prices, new copy, new offers; to evaluate merchandising plans or special promotions; for expansion of new brands; for extra weight against strong local brands, or for any of a dozen other marketing objectives.

"The regional program offers other unique values for the small advertiser as well as the large. These include national prestige and merchandisability, selectivity and efficient coverage in the most lucrative segments of the market, regional breakouts that coincide with established marketing patterns, excellent color and B&W reproduction, and a local audience that is more selective and more efficient on a unit-cost basis than that reached by major local media.

"What are your special marketing objectives? Chances are Life's regional program can help you reach them, just as it will help 500 other regional advertisers this year. Any Life salesman will gladly tell you how.

"Jim Dunn"

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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