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Signalling the Shift from Print to Digital and to More Accurate Metrics of the Effectiveness of Advertising


Time Warner hired Laura Lang, former CEO of Digitas, which characterized itself as the largest digital advertising agency, "with over 3000 employees in 32 offices across 19 countries," to run its Time, Inc. magazine division, signalling a shift in focus from print to digital at the largest magazine publisher in the United States, and a transition to more accurate metrics of the effectiveness of advertising.

"It’s a bold hire and Ms. Lang has an excellent reputation, but it’s a bracing moment for the print romantics among us. Time Inc., the home of Olympian brands like Time, People and Fortune, will be run by an executive who would not know a print run from a can of green beans.  

"As recently as, well, the day before Ms. Lang was hired, it would have been unthinkable that a large consumer magazine group would be run by someone with plenty of experience buying ads for clients, but with no experience selling them. But Ms. Lang knows other things that could come in handy, including how to use multimedia and social media to increase reader engagement in a way magazines rarely achieve.  

"As the head of Digitas, a unit of the Publicis Groupe, she was at the vanguard of a movement to direct advertising dollars toward specific audiences and away from big advertising buys adjacent to articles — in other words, away from businesses like Time Inc.  

"As far back as five years ago she articulated the shift.  

“ 'We’re seeing clients shift dollars into channels that can get a direct engagement, that can get a direct, accountable experience' she said in an interview with Direct, a marketing industry publication.  

"That doesn’t sound like a two-page ad spread in Fortune to me. 

"Traditional media has historically done well by selling inefficiency. In order to reach those among People magazine’s 3.5 million readers who were interested in buying a car or a coffeepot, you had to buy an ad that everyone else flipped past. As a serious practitioner of the science of audience-and-data-driven buys, Ms. Lang helped clients erase those inefficiencies through targeted buys, allowing them to get the milk without having to buy the whole cow.  

"A good magazine will do many things for a brand, including bestowing luster and creating awareness by osmosis. What magazines have not been able to do is to provide reliable measures of effectiveness. Part of the reason that magazine companies have so eagerly hopped on the iPad and other tablets is that those products will finally be able to provide data showing a return on the investment of advertising dollars. It isn’t a reach to bet that Ms. Lang will help magazine publishers be a part of a media age built on metrics" (, accessed 12-11-2011).

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