Why are advertisers returning to print?

Figures released this week show that investment in print advertising rose for the first time in 8 years. Not by much – it’s up 1% – but it’s up. The question is: why?
In part, print’s gain is down to digital’s dodginess. Every days seems to bring a new scandal, and advertisers seem to like the fact that if you spend a pound on a newspaper ad, you get a pound’s worth of ad. The pendulum may being swinging back.
That may be the case. But we think there’s another reason. Smart advertisers know that it’s not about the impressions you buy, but the impression you make. Print ads make more of an impression than digital ads, because people actually look at them – or at least look at them more, and for longer, than digital ads.
Lumen’s print data shows that a viewable print ad (i.e. an ad that you turn the page and can see) has a 79% chance of actually getting looked at. Data from the Lumen digital panel shows that a viewable digital ad currently has 21% chance of getting noticed – up from last year, when it was 18%, but still, much less than your average print ad.

But print is not just better at getting attention. It’s also better at keeping it. Your average print ad gets 2 seconds of attention. Not much, you might say, but better than 1.3 seconds you get on the average digital display ad.

People often ask us what the minimum attention threshold for an ad to work is. It’s horses for courses, to be honest: some ads, from some brands, need longer to do the job than others. But it’s a fair assumption that unless you get a second of eye’s-on attention, you’re unlikely to land your message or have your brand remembered.
And it’s here that print advertising really shows its class. Only 6% of digital ads get more than a second of actual attention, compared to 39% of print ads.

Of course, there is great variation in digital inventory. The best digital publishers can generate massively more attention than the average. There is digital inventory out there to rival print’s numbers. But it is rare. And, ironically, it’s often sold by the newspapers digital sales teams.
Given these numbers, is it any wonder that smart advertisers like Tesco are returning to print? If you want to buy ads that actually get noticed – that actually work – print is a better bet than digital.