The most common research approach to understanding how people read newspapers and magazines and assessing which positions and  types of advertising work best is the mall or street intercept. This involves recruiting people off the street, inviting them into a central location and physically taking them through publications they claim to have read in the recent past (i.e. qualifying them as ‘average issue readers’ so the data can be linked to standard industry readership data).

During this process, respondents might be asked general questions about how they read particular titles. They may also be asked about their recall of individual advertisements in the specific issues they claim to have read. These ads may be masked or otherwise disguised to gauge whether people can identify the brands being advertised.

The billets Consultancy in the UK employed this approach in 20012 to examine key drivers of advertising recall in national newspapers. They found little difference between left and right hand positions. But they did conclude that color advertising at the time did not justify the premiums being charged while size did influence recall levels significantly. The quarterly in which the advertising ran also appeared to be important.

For example, imagine award-winning creative work is running in a disproportionately high number of double-page spreads in the first third of a magazine. If the impact of these ads is compared to a set of smaller, less engaging advertising running in the last third, who is to say that the position the ads appeared in is actually the issue?

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