The role magazines play in improving well-being

The magazine body Magnetic aims to prove how the medium can help make consumers more receptive to ads.

Magazines: millennials showed an increase in positivity after reading their chosen brand. Credit: Getty Images
Magazines: millennials showed an increase in positivity after reading their chosen brand. Credit: Getty Images

At Magnetic’s launch earlier this year, we set out to ensure magazine media is properly understood and embraced by advertisers. As I planned our inaugural event, Spark, it became clear that this is part of a much bigger challenge.

A recent article by Millward Brown’s Sue Elms, "Receptivity and a new share of voice", crystalised this.

It presented tough themes for our industry – principally that the issue of consumer attention and receptivity to advertising is fast becoming our own climate-change debate.

Her argument resonated with me. Many brands are suffering, not benefiting, from the explosion in opportunities to engage with consumers. Marketing’s response to device fragmentation and reduced attention spans is having a detrimental effect. This issue is so big that it affects all of us in the industry and it is why Elms’ latest insight is a central theme of Spark 2015, which is being held in London today (Thursday).

Multiple parties are investigating what is happening in marketing right now.

Microsoft is highlighting the shrinking attention spans of consumers, Havas Media is reporting consumer disregard for brands and the Internet Advertising Bureau last week launched the LEAN standards as it starts to address the digital ad industry’s big challenges.

Magnetic’s starting point is to consider what people want from their lives and the role that content plays. Only then can we truly understand how we can help brands be listened to. To this end, we have been inspired by the work of Professor Paul Dolan, a renowned expert on happiness. Our aim is to develop a deeper understanding of the link between subjective well-being, attention and receptivity.

At Spark, we are sharing the results of our own study, Moments That Matter. We have tracked what happens to an individual’s sense of subjective well-being in the moment when consuming magazine media content. Our research has uncovered some significant findings.

The digitally native millennial audience scored lowest in our survey for subjective well-being.

However, the change after consuming magazine content is much higher than the average for this group than for Generation X or baby boomers. We captured a 12 per cent increase in millennials’ positivity directly after reading their chosen magazine brand.

Much has been written about the rise in anxiety among this digital-first generation but less has been said about what experiences could potentially reduce that anxiety. Magazine content is clearly valued and helping this group feel happier.

Further exploration of well-being drivers shows that the majority of magazine moments meet a need akin to "reward" or "information".

What does any of this mean for brands and marketing?

Well, the link between experiences that meet our need for pleasure and purpose and attention is well-documented in positive psychology. It goes some way, I believe, to explaining why receptivity to advertising content in magazine environments is high.

Which brings me back to the climate-change analogy by Elms.

We are currently in the eye of a perfect storm. Our advertising environment has its own limited and precious resource: consumers’ attention and receptivity.

We know from this new study that magazine content drives well-being and that audiences are receptive to the advertising, but there’s more we can do to ensure all of the experiences and environments we operate in keep the needs of publisher, consumer and advertiser in balance. This research and the Spark event are just the start of our contribution to tackling marketing’s biggest challenge.

Sue Todd is the chief executive of Magnetic

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