Conde Nast Research Tells Us Something We Know, and Something We Ought to Know

06/20/2009 09:02 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MediaPost reported on a study by Conde Nast and McPheters & Co. documenting that ads running on web sites with related content were 61% more likely to be recalled than ads running on web sites with unrelated content. This is not especially news, but it is always welcome news among publishers, on and offline, who invest considerable time and energy creating quality content for their audiences.

There was an interesting twist at the end of its report about the Conde Nast study, however, that MediaPost may have felt obliged to insert in the spirit of full-disclosure. I should do likewise. It's truthfully more interesting (and bigger) than the news that the right message in the right place produces better results, which has been shown to be true since, maybe, 1517 when Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses on the door of a church instead of a tavern. (One wonders if the Protestant Reformation would have got off the ground quite as well if patrons passing through the door were headed in for a drink instead of spiritual reflection.)

According to MediaPost, a Conde Nast study from earlier in the year (April, as I learned) revealed this about online advertising generally versus offline:

"According to data released earlier in the year by Condé Nast and McPheters & Co., nearly two-thirds -- 63% -- of banner ads were not seen by Web users. Respondents' eyes "passed over" 37% of the Internet ads and "stopped" on slightly less than a third, McPheters found.

In contrast to online ads, TV and magazine ads generated a strong propensity to be seen and recalled, according to the research.

Full-page, four-color magazine ads were determined to have 83% of the value of a 30-second television commercial, while a typical Internet banner ad has 16% of the value."

I missed that story last time. It is clearly - sadly- the most newsworthy piece in the context of Conde Nast's research. And, rats, if you sell online advertising. One assumes Conde Nast went to market with partners McPheters & Co. (and CBS Vision) to bring back answers in defense of print and afterwards went back to the well for news to support their digital team. Well, they got it: Content matters.

Thanks. Very interesting.

Frankly, however, I'm inclined to want to pay careful attention to those results reported again at the end of today's story. I suspect they may be more right than wrong in regard to Internet advertising, the distribution of which has appeared - and continues to appear - largely indiscriminate despite improved targeting features. Most of those features are late to the game and still devoid of consumer partnership - meaning, consumers don't get that the messages may be targeted usefully towards them; they just see the same @$%! advertising everywhere and have conditioned themselves to ignore it.

The "content matters" question, therefore, is quite possibly more important than what it has been shown again to contribute to advertising that relies upon it. In the negative sense, advertising (and marketing) that does not offer proper context to its targets and customers may be cheating the advertising body politic as a whole.

Interesting. This may be an acute side-effect of an Internet pumped-up on data hormones; though magazines, most of which are specialized, might also be vulnerable if they were to suddenly start mainlining data. Consider a Fortune magazine edition with no business advertising and a Parenting magazine with nothing but business advertising. The effect would probably start to chip away at the 83% value quotient that print enjoys versus the :30 spot. The rational basis for the advertising in both publications might be the consumer, but the consumer's associations are with the media. Eliminate the associations and advertising stops being break-through in the way that data can enhance break-through. It simply breaks. It stops making sense.

Conde Nast's research is telling us something we know. More importantly, it is telling us something we ought to know and perhaps do something about (quickly).