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Ads That Know Your Name: Magazines Push Further Into Personalization

Trying to answer the digital era's increasing demands for personalization, magazines are pushing further into ads that address readers individually.

The March issue of Harper's Bazaar, for example, arrived at 300,000 subscribers' homes accompanied by a full-page flier greeting each subscriber by name and urging her to visit specific Neiman Marcus stores within 50 miles.

The flier -- called an "outsert" in industry jargon -- follows a similar effort in Popular Mechanics' November issue that included an individually personalized outsert promoting HP printers and a 16-page insert pointing readers to HP retailers near their homes.

Harper's Bazaar and Popular Mechanics are both participating in Project Match, a collaboration between their parent company, Hearst, and HP, which has developed printing technology to enable faster, higher-quality personalized printing.

But other publishers are likely to follow. Time Inc.'s Targeted Media Inc. is now testing a similar effort program by putting individually personalized wraps on 2,000 copies of Fortune that are going to media buyers and marketers. It hopes to make the capability broadly available by mid-July.

"The digital universe has gotten us used to personalization," said Rob Reif, president of Targeted Media Inc. "This is just another way that it's manifested itself."

Luxury marketing is headed in the same direction, said Connie Livsey, director of beauty and lifestyle at Harper's Bazaar. "A luxury customer wants to be first, wants to be treated special, wants everything customized, wants to be treated in a personal way," she said.

There are many ways marketers might personalize their magazine advertising, according to Ms. Livsey. "One could do a separate outsert just for people where I have new stores," she said. "Or maybe I want one insert for everyone who are my biggest Lancome customers and another one for everyone who are my biggest Estee Lauder customers."

Some of the momentum behind personalized ads also came from a perhaps unlikely source -- the Post Office, whose rising costs and diminishing service usually count among magazines' big challenges. Regulation changes last year let publishers mail onserts with magazines without triggering higher delivery rates, according to Michelle Weir, publishing market development manager for the Americas at HP Graphics Solutions Business.

The capabilities of personalization programs will continue to expand, Ms. Weir added. "One of the other things I think you'll see soon is the ability to do this across magazines," she said.


Nat Ives, Advertising Age. March 2, 2012

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