Are cross-media hooks, hashtags, and social badges the new footer for advertising? A study of 7 magazines reveals that use of cross-media hooks is low.


The introduction of the Internet as significant competition for traditional advertising sources opened the door for wider adoption of hooks, or cross-media connections. Now advertising is containing more and more integrated forms of communication geared to take people from one medium to another. The medium in which advertising is consumed is a factor in the success of the campaign, which accounts for the massive advertising industry with its unique niches carved out by agencies vying for some of the more than $100 billion spent on advertising (last year’s figure) in the US. Whether in out-of-home mediums like rail and subway advertising or the sometimes-more-focused print magazine advertising, cross-media hooks like QR codes, social media badges, and hashtags are used today across various market segments. Based on a recent casual survey of the latest issues of seven magazines, however, cross-media hooks are not used as frequently as one might guess.


Cross-media hooks in these magazines included references to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn either by use of the traditional square badge, tag line (“Follow” or “Friend”), or URL. Among the seven titles reviewed, no one cross-media hook was used by more than 20% of the advertisements in each title. So here we have a market of 4.8 billion mobile phones worldwide, with 428 million units sold in 2011 alone, many of which may correlate to a significant portion of the 175 million Twitter and 800 million Facebook users worldwide. Why don’t more magazine advertisers focus on implementing cross-media hooks? In the age of the downward spiral of circulation and poor conversion to electronic media, why aren’t more magazines pushing the use of cross-media hooks in their advertising sales and internal advertising efforts?

The higher use of QR codes points to the prevalent misuse of the technology, as many of the codes in the sample group lead to non-mobile-optimized webpages. With the right social media metrics platform in place, traffic from cross-media hooks leading to social networks like Facebook and Twitter can lead to a better understanding of how particular market segments respond to advertising.

This all begs the question: With the massive expansion of social media and the use of cross-media hooks, are we isolating any one group of our target audience? Fifteen years ago, with use of the Internet rising, many advertisements contained references to mailing addresses and 800 numbers for consumers who wanted more information. Websites were in the minority, but now a company logo, tag line, and website (and legal disclosure) are standard for virtually all advertisements. In other mediums, like out-of-home advertising on mass transit, the use of cross-media hooks like hashtags and social media references are significant. They tell the viewer, “Look, we are trendy and current––find us on social media.”


Are we isolating the portion of the target audience who doesn’t get the contextual clues of a square of color with a letter or bird and an octothorpe (#) used in front of a word? Yes, we are, but the numbers don’t lie. The exponential adoption of Internet-capable devices with cameras and an operating system capable of supporting third-party apps shows that the collision of mobile, social, and local is the future of visual communication. Use cross-media hooks and integrate social media into marketing and advertising efforts to be one step ahead of the curve.

P.S. Infinite Utterly Orange points for anyone willing to submit a book report on the ISO 18004:2006 IT specification for automatic identification and data capture techniques––just the type of winter reading this author loves!

Author: John Carew


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