Does Advertising Spending Influence Media Coverage of the Advertiser?

Diego Rinallo & Suman Basuroy
Journal of Marketing
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Executive Summary
In many industries, the media routinely cover products and services for their readers. However, these media’s primary source of income is advertising. In this study, the authors investigate whether advertising influences media coverage of the advertiser. The authors analyze a large data set of companies and their advertising and product coverage with publishers and in magazines from Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The findings indicate that (1) advertisers receive a preferential treatment in coverage, (2) publishers that are dependent more on a specific industry for their advertising revenues are prone to a higher degree of influence than others, (3) peer pressures from competing publishers affect coverage decisions, (4) larger and more innovative companies are at an advantage for obtaining coverage for their products, and (5) the effects of corporate advertising influence exist in both Europe and the United States.

The findings have implications for the conceptualization of product publicity in the communication mix. In the context of this study, high levels of product publicity are difficult to obtain without significant advertising expenditures. Thus, product publicity and advertising should not be considered distinct marketing communication tools, and the usual characterization of product publicity as “unpaid” may be overestimated.

Companies have many strategies available to increase the volume of coverage they receive for any given level of advertising. First, innovative products are newsworthy. Smaller companies that are at a disadvantage in obtaining media coverage for their products could benefit the most from the media quest for news. The rather eccentric fashion that emerging designers sometimes present may be a means to obtain coverage for their products despite their lack of resources. Companies from other industries may be inspired by the strategies of these creative brands.

Second, companies should consider that differences exist among media outlets in terms of their responsiveness to advertiser influence. Companies that concentrate their advertising investment on industry-specialized media will obtain greater coverage. In the same way, some magazines (e.g., weeklies) treat their advertisers in a more favorable manner than others. Moreover, media outlets react differently to the advertiser’s country of origin (e.g., in the fashion industry, foreignness is a liability for the possibly nationalistic French publishers, but this is not in the case of U.S. media outlets). Thus, returns on advertising investments in term of media coverage may differ across countries.

Finally, media outlets “look at each other” when making coverage decisions. Although the data do not lend themselves to test the impact of coverage decisions of individual magazines, it is likely that some of them are more influential than others (e.g., Vogue USA may set the agenda of both domestic and foreign magazines). By concentrating their advertising budget on influential magazines, companies may increase coverage also in outlets in which they do not advertise.

Diego Rinallo is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Bocconi University and Senior Analyst at CERMES, Bocconi University’s Center for Research on Markets and Industries. He received his PhD in Business Administration and Management from Bocconi University. His research interests include advertising, marketing events, consumer culture, and the culture-producing role of marketers. He has conducted extensive research on the fashion and textile industries. His articles on this and related topics have appeared in Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Business Research, and several chapters in international books.

Suman Basuroy is Ruby K. Powell Professor and Associate Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain in the Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma. He graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa with Honors in Mathematics from Brandeis University, where he was a Wien Scholar. He received his PhD in Marketing from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a Senior Fellow of the DeSantis Center for Motion Picture Industry Studies and Honorary Research Associate at CERMES, Bocconi University’s Center for Research on Markets and Industries. His research interests in are the marketing of motion pictures, the impact of media, and retailing. His research has been published in Management Science, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business, Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Marketing Letters, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, and other journals.

Journal of Marketing, Volume 73, Number 6, November 2009
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Diego Rinallo & Suman Basuroy
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