The Pen is Mightier

The decline and ultimate demise of print advertising is a forgone conclusion for many marketers, especially the current and rising generations who started their careers in the age of digital everything. “Not so fast.” say some industry experts, however. According to eMarketer, print advertising (consisting of magazine and newspaper ads) accounted for $18.74 billion in 2018—only about a sixth of digital advertising’s share, but more than radio, out-of-home or directories advertising. And, print is not going down without a fight.

First of all, marketing executives still believe in the combined power of digital and print media to boost brands and engage audiences in more a meaningful way that creates lasting relationships and trust. Many consumers agree; when Marketing Sherpa asked, “which type of advertising channels do you trust more when you want to make a purchase decision?”, 82% of Americans said that they trust prints ads, followed by TV ads (80%) and direct mail (76%). At 25%, online pop-up ads were the least trusted form of advertising.

According to Sappi’s “A Communicator’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch,”More than half the brain is devoted to processing sensory experience, and much of that sensory receptivity focuses on touch. So, a marketer’s words on paper may get a little more attention. “When you touch something, it triggers a reaction. You feel differently about what you touch. You begin to feel you own it.” For many brands, that’s exactly the goal for advertisements to consumers.



Second, print’s ability to reach engaged, niche audiences that other channels have difficulty penetrating is also unique. And let’s not forget that in this age of online security breaches and privacy concerns, some consumers may prefer to make all of their brand and shopping decisions offline.

Print advertising is also evolving to stay relevant and fresh in a digital world. From including calls to action to visit personalized URLs, to the resurgent use of QR codes (now that Apple iOS includes a native QR code reader capability), print ads are working hard to connect to online, where their marketing contributions can be tracked and credited. Other digital enhancements to print ads, such as integrated augmented reality features or interactive elements such as the Old Spice scented paper blazer, are also attractive options to keep audiences entertained and engaged.


If you want to be inspired (or just entertained) by some of the best print campaigns from 2018, check out this listicle by A Nerd’s World.


From a marketing manager’s perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • What measures must you take to ensure that you can utilize the best of both worlds in terms of digitally tracking print media?
  • In what stages of the consumer journey would you choose to use digital media over print? For what types of consumers? Vice versa?
  • If you were a marketing manager, how would you propose a timeline to use integrated media for long-term brand-building?