12 print ads driving social media engagement

September 16, 2013  |  Wing Sze Tang  |  Comments

GfK MRI StarchMetrix Canada completes new magazine ad analysis

Want to see what’s driving magazine readers to get online and learn more about brands they see in ads? StarchMetrix Research Services has a few ideas on what’s working.

The company launched a syndicated readership survey in collaboration with GfK MRI that looks at national ads in 15 major Canadian consumer magazines.

“We used to just measure readership – how many people saw an ad – but now we’re able to measure reader actions as a result of seeing those ads as well,” says Brian Hickey, president of Starch Research Services in Canada.

For its analysis, StarchMetrix measured 13,781 ads that ran from April 2011 to April 2013, identifying those that were most effective in prompting one of three reader actions: visiting or joining the advertiser’s social network, visiting the advertiser’s website or using the QR code.

We spoke with Hickey for insights on each of 12 that stood out across the key categories.


1) Nufree Finipil
Published in: Loulou, July 2011
# who visited or joined the advertiser’s social network: 15%

This full-page ad, a pitch for a no-wax hair removal treatment in salons, tied with Stopain (see below) as the most effective in driving readers to a marketer’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. By comparison, “when we look at all ads in our database, the average is 4% for [readers] joining the social networks,” Hickey says. Given the product benefits claimed, “it stands to reason that prospective users would be interested in seeking input from people who have already used it.”

2) Stopain
Published in: Best Health, December 2011
# who visited or joined the advertiser’s social network: 15%

This fractional ad that promotes a pain relief roll-on and spray with to-the-point product benefits “does what it does very well. It’s a very good use of small space,” says Hickey. “It provides proof of the power of fractional ad sizes to catch readers’ attention.”

3) Geox
Published in: Elle Canada, October 2012
# visited or joined the advertiser’s social network: 14%

Here a clean product shot proved compelling. “You’re seeing both the fashion style aspect and the perforated rubber sole, which is one of Geox’s great advantages in the marketplace,” says Hickey, who points out effective logoed branding at the bottom. This ran on page 161 of the issue, demonstrating that “a good ad will do well in any part of the magazine.”

4) Winners
Published in: Loulou, April 2011
# who visited or joined the advertiser’s social network: 14%

This two-pager plays on the strength of a powerful, colourful and fun visual that implies shopping at the retailer will leave enough cash for a movie, says Hickey. The Facebook icon discreetly follows a bit of copy on “fashionomics.”


1) Humber Business School
Published in: Toronto Life, June 2011
# who visited the advertiser’s website: 39%

“For context, the average for prompting readers to visit websites is 10% [among all ads studied], and this is at 39%,” says Hickey. He credits much of the success to a premise with wide appeal – a quiz that promises to reveal which college business program would suit you best – along with an easy-to-remember URL that serves as the main headline.

2) Prolia
Published in: Reader’s Digest, October 2012
# who visited the advertiser’s website: 39%

This one-page advertorial for the osteoporosis drug Prolia – though the name is not specified in the ad– sends readers to an informational site, HealthAndBone.com. “This demonstrates one of the great strengths of magazines: long copy, when well done, gets read.” It also has an air of credibility, thanks to quotes from a medical expert.

3) Scotia iTRADE
Published in: Maclean’s, November 26, 2012
# who visited the advertiser’s website: 37%

It’s simple and direct, with an eye-grabbing restricted use of colour (including the trademark red ball), as well as a call to action (“Start today and get 100 free trades”), notes Hickey. With the ad flow, the eyes are drawn down through the whole page.

4) TD Canada Trust
Published in: Reader’s Digest, February 2013
# who visited the advertiser’s website: 33%

This ad, which highlights TD’s cross-border banking services, drove web traffic – even though it neglects to specify a URL. “It’s a great picture, depicting palm trees – it doesn’t look like a familiar environment for the familiar TD logo, so that went a long way toward attracting attention,” Hickey says.


1) Iron Kids Gummies
Published in: Today’s Parent, September 2012
# who took a picture of the QR code: 16%

The QR code scanning average for all ads studied is 5%, so this was more than three times as effective, says Hickey. This two-page ad on cardstock cleverly encourages involvement from kids with a colour-in page. For adults, “basic [product] information is there, and if you want more, it looks easy to get,” he says.

2) Adult Essentials Gummies
Published in: Canadian Family, September 2011
# who took a picture of the QR code: 15%

A strong headline and straightforward, large-fonted copy were the selling points here. “There are seven product benefits in a row and then pack shots. It uses reverse type, which doesn’t always work well, but in this case, it worked very well.”

3) Giorgio Armani Sport Code
Published in: Toronto Life, December 2011
# who took a picture of the QR code: 15%

Although it’s not clear what you’d get by scanning the QR code, readers were intrigued enough to do it, likely lured by the visual. “This ad was interesting because it also had a scent strip, and an offer for a free sample through Facebook, so there were three different ways to get involved with this ad,” says Hickey.

4) HomeSense
Published in: Style At Home, May 2012
# who took a picture of the QR code: 15%

To goose reader engagement, this cover gatefold advertorial included a contest (with a $5,000 shopping spree prize). “It offered an opportunity to play a game called Splurge vs. Steal online. You could test your design skills,” says Hickey. “The QR code enabled readers to visit the mobile site to play the game.”

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