Innovation is one of the most important sectors of news brand advertising. Every news brand offers creative solutions and many have whole departments dedicated to this specialist area.

Print newspapers are still central to this process and continue to offer and develop a wide range of interesting options for brand communication — tip-ons, wrap-arounds, takeovers, special edition – the list goes on.

Some inspiring examples include:

  • A shadow of a flying dragon, which appeared across a page of editorial (non-advertorial) in The New York Times in February to promote season 3 of the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

But, of course, even more opportunities to do something new and innovative lie in the digital platforms. The key fact is that so many readers are connected, either via the Web on a PC or, increasingly, on mobiles and tablets.

As a result, the divide between print and digital is shrinking as publishers adopt platform-agnostic ad booking systems and become increasingly integrated, multi-media operations.

A number of innovations in news-brands digital advertising are proving to be especially exciting:

One example is augmented reality press ads, where the reader users a mobile tablet to bring the ad to life off the page. Some interesting examples of news brands and advertisers using this technology include:

  • The Times’ augmented reality supplement in November 2012, a UK first, featured HP’s augmented reality, or aurasma-powered content and ads as well as a “scan to shop” function across the Christmas gift guide. The supplement had 24,000 interactions and recently won a Rev award for digital innovation in the industry.  

  • The Mail on Sunday’s fully interactive digital edition of its supplement Live magazine in January 2013 featured ads from Vauxhall, LateRooms.com, and Honda.

  • The Independent’s introduction of Independent+ with Blippar allows readers to use augmented reality to access additional digital content where the Independent+ icon appears.

  • Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun demonstrated the creative possibilities augmented-reality technology can offer when it created an app that translated newspaper editorial and ads into a child-friendly format.

QR codes, which are used most conspicuously by car marques, such as in the current Toyota Auris print ads. If your key strategy is to get customers to engage with you online, then QR codes mean that they can do it at the click of a button. QR codes can also be used creatively:

  • In February 2013 a tattoo shop in Istanbul launched an ad campaign in a local newspaper to source new employees with artistic flair and steady hands. The ads featured a faint impression of a QR code, which had to be filled in perfectly to be successfully scanned. It thus provided a job application form. 

Partnerships between brands and news brands, which offer readers the chance to interact with, and even shape the content. For example:

  • The Guardian and Brand USA have recently announced a six-month partnership, which features Guardian journalists embarking on road trips across the United States, guided by locals’ tweets.

  • Last year Dolmio teamed up with The Sun for “Papa’s Big Tomato Challenge,” which aimed at getting kids interested in fresh food. Sun readers were encouraged to register on the campaigns site and have packs of tomato seeds sent to them with advice on how to grow them.

    It was so successful that after a week, 100,000 packs of seeds had been distributed amongst Sun readers and a third partnering body, the Scouts.

  • The Daily Mirror played on their readers’ interest in true-life crime by partnering with the Crime and Investigation network and running a series of features on criminals included in the networks new documentary series.

All of these factors allow advertisers to reach and inform news-brand readers in highly engaging formats. Now that the digital platforms are established, there is seemingly boundless scope for innovation: re-skins, expandables, Cascade, in-skins, mega-banners, overlays, not to mention the possibilities there will be as new technology is developed and digital platforms evolve.