Readers of the latest issue of People magazine may have been startled to open to a bulky page in the middle and hear Natasha Bedingfield’s latest pop song start playing out loud. It was courtesy of a large ad for Verizon Wireless’ music download service — and a tiny battery and speaker wedged within the pages of the magazine.
Or perhaps readers have gotten used to such sensory affronts from their reading material. With blinking lights, pop-up ads, kiss-on lipstick samples, scratch-off scents, melt-in-your-mouth taste strips and even pocket squares, advertisers are stuffing magazines full of just about anything to make their advertisements stand out.
One reason for the phenomenon is the technology that makes it less expensive to put unusual objects in magazines and that helps advertisers create more sophisticated inserts. Improvements, for example, in hiding fragrance samples under peel-off strips have also reduced the backlash from people with allergies.
But there is another dynamic at work: With so much of the publishing industry shifting to the Web, magazine executives are trying to use their print products as a tactical advantage.
Not only are they reminding advertisers that magazines are good places to attach things, but they are also seeking out and conceiving these projects.
“For us, it’s be clever or die,” said Peter King Hunsinger, the publisher of GQ, which tucked fabric pockets into 19,000 April issues for a Lexus promotion.
And advertisers are looking for concrete returns on these creative ads, many of which use coupons or other incentives to drive consumers to Web sites or stores, where the effectiveness of the ad can be measured.
“The days of just trying to be creative and doing these without a serious commitment to marketing results are gone,” said Mike Maguire, the chief executive of Structural Graphics, a company that produces three-dimensional ads, like pop-up panties for a Fruit of the Loom advertisement and a vertical fin for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
Advertisers have been trying to stand out from the pack since the perfume strip was invented in 1979, when the scent was so strong that “you could kind of smell it before you even opened the magazine,” recalled Diane Crecca, vice president for sales, marketing and business development at Arcade Marketing, which invented the scent strip.
The technology for shampoos or lotions was not much better.
“They would sometimes burst inside the magazine,” said Agnes Landau, senior vice president for global makeup marketing at Clinique. “There was a little bit of a backlash from the customers at that point because they didn’t want the magazine being damaged.”
Advertisers were also unhappy because the samples they sent out were subject to an extra fee from the post office. Arcade Marketing executives studied what the post office’s definition of “sample” was. By 1997, it had devised a thumb-size packet that could withstand pressure without bursting and the packet was small enough to avoid the excess fee.
More technology advances on the chemical side, such as being able to affix face powder to a piece of paper, led to powder, lipstick and even nail-polish samples. Perfume samples now can be contained beneath seals and wrapped in little packages, a relief to allergy sufferers.
“We hope to see more of it,” said Angel Waldron, spokeswoman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.