Argos goes totally digital: Is this the final page for print?
Do you remember football pools, Green Shield Stamps and Christmas Clubs – those quaintly old-fashioned ways in which our grans and grandads saved or squandered their money? All gone – replaced by the National Lottery, loyalty cards and overdrafts!
The sole survivor of that bygone age – until recently – has been the mail order catalogue. Now even that is about to fade into memory as Argos, the Catalogue of Catalogues and ‘book of dreams’ is to cease publication after 50 years as the go-to source for housewares, toys, gadgets and gizmos.
Is this the oft proclaimed end of print and press advertising as we know it?
An end hastened by the rise of on-line shopping and the COVID-19 pandemic – in much the same way that online or smart phone payment has done for cash?
Well, yes and no. The convenience and flexibility of online shopping (and the instant updatability of the offer – no need for reprints) obviously scores over catalogue sales. But there’s more to print advertising than catalogues.
The thing about on-line shopping is that you must seek it out – and generally have to have something specific in mind. The beauty of a press ad or a billboard (at least from the advertiser’s point of view) is its intrusiveness. It thrusts itself on the public’s attention whether they like it or not, drawing their notice to a product or service they might otherwise be unaware of and might actually find quite useful or desirable.
Print has other advantages that online media does not. It has status, permanence, and authority.
Take status. As makers of top car marques and luxury goods know, nothing quite captures the prestige of their products better than a high-quality brochure. Ditto the Annual Report and Accounts of a big corporation or the prospectus of a university.
Then there’s permanence. Digital media is ephemeral. It comes and goes in the blink or an eye. Printed material can be kept, filed and referred back to. Even just lying around it serves as a constant reminder (see intrusiveness above).
And nothing matches the authority of print. Can you imagine a clergyman reading a tablet from the pulpit rather than the Bible? People trust the printed word (some even believe what they read in the tabloids!) so if you want to bolster your credibility, appear in print.
The truth is that the best marketing strategy is one that combines both traditional and digital media – or tradigital marketing as we call it. Both bring different things to the table and together are greater than the sum of their parts.
Above all, though, it should be remembered that methods change but values don’t. People will always be looking to shop, save or indulge their appetites. The shrewd advertiser is the one who recognises that it is the message that is key – whatever the means of delivery.