April 15, 2015

Audience Targeting In Magazine Ads


When I am not hanging at “the Plus,” I am a student at the University of Maryland. In my Sports Marketing class at UMD, we spent a class period discussing advertising in magazines. Each student was handed a different publication to look through and analyze the ad space. I got the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) magazine, which is published every two months. To be honest, the types of ads in the UFC magazine were pretty much exactly what you would expect: a lot of sport supplements (protein powder, bars, and a product that I think might have actually just been a bottle of anabolic steroids). The other consistent theme was promoting upcoming fights: Just about every other ad featured a page promoting an upcoming bout between two UFC fighters. The articles were mostly feature stories on different fighters who had upcoming matches, so even the content was promoting the UFC and trying to get people to tune in or pay-per-view.

What was interesting was that the other ads and some of the content in UFC magazine helped define the magazine’s target audience and get a clear picture of the type of people who are passionate about the sport. Besides UFC promotion and protein pushers, there were a lot of military ads. The back of the magazine featured a Geico military appreciation advertisement. One of the articles profiling an A-list movie star includes a description of “actor, Marine…” The content of the ads (and of the articles in the magazine itself) is specific to its readers.

The place in the magazine where the advertisement’s physically appears is also calculated. Ever notice how it always takes a few pages before you can flip to the table of contents in a magazine? That’s because ad space for those first few pages is the most expensive. People won’t flip through those first few pages as quickly because they are carefully trying to find the “table of contents” page. Speaking of flipping through pages, most people “read” magazines by skimming through and only stopping for content that looks interesting. To counter this, some ads will be printed on paper that is thicker than the rest of the magazine (called bulking stock)  to help those pages stand out.

Magazine advertisements are calculated. Magazines are very niche specific; I am more likely to pick up Sports Illustrated than Reader’s Digest, and brands know that. They try to target people like me, and the specific content of the magazine I choose helps brands reach a larger proportion of their target audience. As a magazine reader, next time you leaf through your favorite tabloid (I won’t judge), check out the ads and see what sticks out: notice what is placed where and that it is all intentional.

(Photo: “TIME Magazine; Person of the Year, Greg’s Art and My Photo Online” by flickr user Tony Fisher via Attribution 2.0 License)