New Beginnings: The Future of Print Media

I’m not an “expert” in advertising. Of course, I’m measuring myself by the standards set by such seminal figures as David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Jay Chiat and giants of the industry. I’m pretty good at what I do – hopefully forecasting the future is inclusive of that.

I’ve had the privilege of reading the comments of the number of people on LinkedIn in response to a question by a young woman named ‘Naomi Z.’ (I’m hoping there are more letters in her last name, but you never know). Naomi Z. posed the question regarding whether print media has a future in the advertising industry. She pointed out with great insight that advancements and usage of technological instruments such as smart phones, smart TVs, and mobile devices and tablets are contributing factors in the demise of the publishing industry. Of course, that includes newspapers and magazines.

Advertising budgets for newspapers and magazines have been reduced dramatically, but as someone who believes in the principles of advertising, print will never become obsolete.

Okay. I hear hackles and voices rising in disagreement. Here’s my position.

Print is a question of definition. Generally, print media is relegated to items on the printed page — that is to say — newspapers and magazines. But, I define print as what is communicated in an ad, and whether it is effective in getting a consumer to the store. An ad can be something in your local newspaper, a TV commercial, on the Internet, or even a billboard. To some this may sound simplistic , but perhaps that speaks to a larger issue regarding understanding. We forget though that “print” is always something someone wrote.

We’ve seen the growth of digital advertising agencies. I can’t help but wonder if the expediency that digital provides has eroded the skill set of creatives. Many people coming into the industry have never heard of Ogilvy, Bernbach, Burnett, Chiat, Harry Webber (creator of those United Negro College Fund and Stuck on Band-aid Campaigns) and other industry giants. So, these same people have no sense of the foundation aspect of the industry. I’m basing this on my experience with interns from good schools, who, when asked to assist in writing copy, they haven’t a clue on what to do.

Most of them ask: “Isn’t print dead?” or “Who reads newspapers?” To them writing an ad is a waste of time. I point out that when you receive the notification of a sale on a smart phone, that notification is an ad. It’s a form of “print.”

“Duh. My professor never told me that. When in doubt, I go with professor’s ideas. ”
“Terrific,” I reply. “Your professor isn’t trying running an agency either. Things look different behind the pipe smoke of an academician. It is obscured reality. It is not the real world. Pick up the pencil and write.”

Our agency is small, but we’ve gained some notoriety for our ability to convey messages, in either brochures, web copy, smart phone communiques, Internet and newspaper ads, that resonate with the intended audience.

Naomi’s question is extremely valid. Those of us who claim to be senior creatives owe it to tenets of what we do to in our industry to transform and evolve without sacrificing the heart of advertising.

If it means redefining “print,” do it. Remember that old saying –the more things change, the more it remains the same.

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy

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