Meredith has officially extended its sales guarantee, previously limited to CPG marketers, to pharma. The guarantee promises print, digital and cross-platform advertisers an increase in Rx lift and a positive return on their marketing investments.

Over the course of eight pilots with pharma clients, Meredith reports eye-opening results: an average of 58% lift in total Rx conversions and a return on ad spend (ROAS) of $12.15 for every dollar. The campaigns are measured by Symphony Health Solutions and Crossix Solutions, and compare the increases in conversions of the advertised brands against conversions among a matched control group that wasn’t exposed to advertising.

Meredith’s sales guarantee dates back to 2011, when the company first floated it to marketers in the CPG space. 

“We were noticing that magazines in particular were seen as not being measurable, so there was a focus on getting a bottom-line measurement,” recalls SVP, research solutions Britta Cleveland. “What we wanted to show was that when people are exposed to advertising in magazines, we can change not just their intent, but their behavior.”

After the guarantee program proved its mettle in other categories – Meredith reports that it has delivered on each of the more than 150 guarantees it has extended – the company gave it a stealth test run in pharma during the second half of 2016. The campaign chosen was for a branded prescription drug, which was advertised in five Meredith magazine brands. In the end, Rx lift increased by 22% and return on ad spend was $8.93.

“One of the issues I had going into it was that pharma ads in print tend to be more expensive, because you’re running multiple pages with all the disclaimer information,” Cleveland says. “I was worried we wouldn’t have ROI, but that hasn’t been the case.”

Some of the details of the pharma guarantee remain slightly hazy. Meredith notes that eligibility for the guarantee program hinges on a commitment to “an agreed-upon corporate spend level.” While Cleveland says she’s unable to share specifics about dollar sums and durations, she notes that “eligibility is based on achieving a minimum GRP level and an increase in spend by prior year.” Also, Meredith’s clients haven’t yet freed the company to discuss anything about their experiences with the guarantee program.

“You know pharma companies – they are very protective of their names and brands and identity,” Cleveland says. “I wrote a presentation with the company [that did the first sales-guarantee program] and they were going to present it with me. Legal [at the company] came back and said, ‘Not only can my people not get on stage with you, but you can’t tell anyone what category the product is in.’”

Response from the media community has largely been enthusiastic. “Generally speaking, I would say the concept is certainly attractive as it relates to being able to demonstrate a return for our clients,” says McCann Health global president, engagement Jeff Erb. “[Meredith’s sales guarantee] helps us provide a reasoning to clients for putting more dollars into that particular media vehicle… Meredith very, very firmly believes in their product.”

Erb rejects the notion, however, that organizations heavily invested in print need to go the extra distance to prove the continuing worth and importance of the channel. “The reality of it is that while digital has become such an important part of peoples’ day-to-day lives, people like to read things and print isn’t going to go away anytime soon,” he continues. “To me, this makes print an important reinforcement medium.”

For her part, Cleveland reports that the sales guarantee’s inherent promise of “proof at the bottom of the sales funnel, rather than just in terms of intent or awareness” has been received warmly by pharma. “I’ve heard, ‘We’ve never had anything like this before,’” she says. Erb doesn’t recall any other print-heavy media organization offering a similar sales/ROAS guarantee; a Condé Nast spokesperson said she was unable to determine whether the company has extended comparable offers to pharma clients.

Look for Meredith to expand the guarantee program’s purview in the months and years ahead. “With pharma, you think about all the money companies have put into TV. How much is that actually helping them?,” Cleveland asks. “Our goal is to be accountable to our advertisers. We are so confident about our product and our pricing.”

This story was updated on July 29 to clarify eligibility requirements for the sales guarantee program.