The Power of Print – and WTF isn’t it Programmatic?

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My wife has an analog habit that she never wants to break. You see, she likes to get the Sunday New York Times and read it. You know, ink on paper. I suspect that the real thing is Sunday mornings are just about the only time that is remotely quiet in our house, and the newspaper makes a wonderful companion to hot french press coffee. The ritual of the Sunday paper is awesome.
And here I am – Mr. ADHD and Mr. Digital – I like it when things are flashy and blinky. I like the internet. I like the busy, I like the constant, I like the now. The newspaper, well that was printed last night, and honestly by the time it hits our doorstep, it is old news. But there is one thing that draws me to the Sunday paper, especially the NYT, and it is the ads. Print ads are wonderful. They are sensuous, even the all text ones, they are stately, they are composed. And they draw me in and capture me in a way that the digital advertisements that surround the rest of my life never do.
Perhaps it is because for the advertiser, the printed page really is a blank canvas. There are no limitations to what you can express other than maximum size and minimum legibility. In the digital world, there are limitations like text character limits, image size limits, file size limits. It seems to me, as a marketer, that print is like the luxury form of marketing.
But as a consumer, the print advertising, although wonderfully delicious to behold, is hardly relevant to me. Unlike the web, where everyone rushes to make the right impression on me at the right time, print has no idea who the f*@# I am. And to some extent, I hate that. For the magazines that I subscribe to (Inc., Fact Company) I am starting to resent the intrusion of ads that aren’t relevant to me. These publications know where I live. They know how long I have lived there. They know how I engage with them digitally. They have an enormous trove of online and offline information about me. I would suspect that only my iPhone, in-car GPS, and debit cards know more about me. So why don’t these publishers leverage what they know about me an make their advertising programmatic. As online publishers know, programmatic buying can improve yields on pageviews. Perhaps print players could keep some spots available for personalized ads. I know that I did some very sophisticated print of demand stuff for direct mail 10 years ago – could it be time for large scale print operations to move away from a 100% premium (and potentially irrelevant) ad model to a mix of premium and ads printed just for me? After all, the newspaper delivery gets the paper to my house, I invited it there. What advertiser wouldn’t to be part of that platform and provide me with relevant advertising in its most luxurious form. Ad think of the ad sales opportunities – print, digital and personal – all in one.
Could this be the thing to make print relevant? Is relevant advertising an opportunity for success?

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