Beyond Basic Ads: The Top Types to Boost Revenue

What do you think of when someone says “magazine ad?” 

Most likely, you picture a full-page or half-page rectangle with a company logo, tagline and contact info. These ads are classics for a reason — they work. According to the News/Media Alliance, magazine readers notice ads no matter where they are placed in the book. What’s more, they take action like clipping and saving the ad or visiting an advertiser’s website. But have you ever considered thinking outside the standard ad rectangle? 

In this post, we’ll explore the value of standard ads and then break down less common ad types you can start selling now to maximize revenue, grow your advertiser base and boost member engagement. 

Ad Type 1: The Classic

When it comes to selling these ad placements, you have familiarity on your side. Advertisers understand them and their value. Here’s how you can maximize their effectiveness when pitching ad space to potential advertisers: 

  • Highlight your track record. Gather data from past issues to show the ROI of a classic ad. If you don’t have your own data, use industry research (like the stats listed above).
  • Enhance the look. Classic doesn’t have to mean boring. Offer advertisers design guidance — like using high-resolution photos and keeping the layout simple and uncluttered. You may even offer design services if you have the talent on staff. Fresh, contemporary ads with a clear message have the greatest impact. 
  • Talk up prime positioning. Inside front covers, back covers and right pages (right-hand pages, or “right-hand reads”) all offer maximum visibility. Tout the value of these premium positions in your pitch. 
  • Follow up. Track data on how the ad is doing. You can do this through member surveys, website traffic or other relevant metrics. Share this with your advertisers to show them the value of their ad. 

BONUS TIP: Think Smaller

One often overlooked strategy for maximizing ad revenue in association magazines is the concept of fractional ads. 

“Many magazines, especially midsize or smaller, primarily focus on full-page or half-page placements,” m3Magazines co-founder Adam Weiss says. 

But there’s untapped potential in thinking outside the standard sizes and offering fractionalized spots on a page. Instead of a single advertiser taking a full or half page, the idea is to chop up the page into many smaller sections. This could mean breaking a page into nine, 12 or even 16 different ad spaces. By doing this, an association magazine can offer advertisers low-cost, bite-sized placements that provide an excellent entry point for those on tighter budgets.

While this can lead to increased revenue and a bump in the number of advertisers in the publication, it can also mean more administrative work on your end. Weiss recommends selling fractionals once per year.

“Instead of chasing smaller payments monthly, have advertisers pay a lump sum at the beginning of the year, such as $1,200 for a $100 monthly spot,” he says. 

This approach ensures that magazines get the revenue without the headache of monthly tracking. 

Ad Type 2: The Show Off

You may have an advertiser who just came out with a new product or has an expansion in the works. Turn these announcements into ads that are all but guaranteed to catch the eye of your readers

Belly bands. Like it sounds, a belly band wraps around the magazine’s middle. That means readers have to touch it and interact with it before opening the magazine. This is a big boon for advertisers, but Weiss notes it’s a two-sided coin. 

“The upside, of course, is the incredibly high visibility. Everyone has to touch it,” he says. “You have to take it off to read the magazine, so you really get a lot of bang. But, where does it go after you take it off? Into the trash.”

To ease the pain of being tossed in the bin, Weiss often offers his premium advertisers a belly-band-plus options that include an ad in the pages of the magazine. 

“That way, they’re not going to lose that value,” he says. “You get the impact of the belly band, then tie that creative design to a full-page ad in the magazine for the lifetime benefit.”

False covers. In the same spirit of the belly band, a false cover allows an advertiser to take up the entire front cover real estate. Readers open it to reveal the actual magazine cover underneath. The benefit here is that the cover stays attached, offering lifetime interaction and maximum impact. 

BONUS TIP: Think False

False covers are a natural place to include interactive elements, like flaps or tear-outs, that encourage reader engagement. 

Cover callouts. A cover callout is a special mention or shoutout printed directly on the magazine cover. Callouts serve to highlight premium advertisers, giving them prominent visibility. 

Ride-alongs. If an advertiser has more to promote than can fit on a single printed page, they may opt for a ride-along. Ride-alongs are great for product guides, samples, coupons or booklets. Ride-alongs are bundled with the magazine in a plastic bag or stuck on with adhesive.  

Ad Type 3: The Deep Dive

Editorial-style features allow advertisers to connect with your readers on a deeper level. Instead of an obvious ad, these often take the form of a longer article, profile or guide. They’re typically branded as advertorials, special sections or sponsored content, and they come in a variety of forms, including: 

Premium focus ads. According to Weiss, these types of ads take the form of a product roundup or company profile where the advertiser provides the content. 

BONUS TIP: Think Templates

Advertisers might be intimidated by the prospect of coming up with a whole page or spread of content. Offer a template that allows them to fill in the blanks about their product or service and upload a photo or two to accompany the feature.   

Advertorial. The word itself offers a clue to this type of ad. Advertorial is a combination of the words advertisement and editorial. Advertorials present information about the company in a way that feels more like an article than an ad. The advertorial may quote from key company leaders or customers who have experience using the product or service. 

While advertorials typically follow the style of the publication — some are even written by your writers — it’s important to mark them as ad copy. Do this with a different color or a banner indicating sponsored content. 

Special section. Special sections are a great way to offer your advertisers credibility and visibility. Often, special sections will include traditional ads along with editorial features that include quotes from the advertisers.

You can get creative with the content mix in these larger sections as well. Include a blend of articles, infographics, lists, gift guides, etc. Since these can appear to readers as another section of the magazine, it’s important for your editorial credibility to clearly brand the entire section as sponsored content. 

Don’t Forget to Bundle

Why sell one ad when you can assemble a bundle that gives the advertiser even more time in front of your audience? 

“You really have to look at what’s best for the advertiser in order to be successful in advertising,” Weiss says. “You can’t just be trying to sell ads to make money. If you’re not trying to help the advertiser get in front of your audience in a meaningful way and get value, you’re going to fall short.” 

Weiss recommends getting to know your advertisers. Find out what their specific goals are so you can present them with a bundled ad package “that answers their biggest concern.”

Bundles can be anything from digital ads to tradeshow placements to direct mail pieces. It all depends on the advertiser. This approach offers advertisers flexibility and puts their needs front and center. 

Seizing Ad Opportunities

Weiss has helped many associations develop ad strategies over the years and points out that “one of the biggest mistakes is limiting the people they reach out to, and the infrequency and limited number of ways in which they reach out.”

He recommends thinking beyond the obvious vendors and thinking broadly about what types of products and services would resonate with your members. 

As for final recommendations, Weiss is a big proponent of keeping an eye on the field.  

“Always be looking at your competitors, other folks doing what you do. They may not even be competitors. I’ll look through commercial magazines because they have amazing ad sales. See what they do. Is there any way for you to do something similar for your industry?“

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