As daily publications, the very nature of a newspaper makes it an ideal platform for my favourite type of advertisement – the topical.
At their best, topical ads are funny, clever, witty, and eye-catching, while also demonstrating the relevancy of a brand through its engagement with current events. With the World Cup, Tour de France, British Open, and Wimbledon having all taken place in the past month, there has been a plethora of such adverts in newspapers recently.
From Tesco referencing Brazil’s World Cup defeat in the following day’s Evening Standard, to Specsavers’ turning an ad around in less than 16 hours to give Suarez some handy pointers as to the difference between Chiellini and cannelloni, the World Cup provided a wealth of material for advertisers. Both Tesco and Specsavers garnered coverage in the trade press and traction on social media for their executions.
Likewise, the Tour de France’s descent through the UK – from Yorkshire to London – created a wave of cycling fever in the newspapers, with Yorkshire-based company Taylor’s of Harrogate and its brand Yorkshire Tea marking the county’s moment in the spotlight with some lovely examples of topical advertising.
Of course, it’s not just sporting events that garner the attention of advertisers.
Last month, Prince George celebrated his first birthday, leading some trade publications to reflect on the flood of anticipatory and congratulatory adverts that surrounded his birth last year. Prominent examples include Jelly Babies’ creations, which were so successful in the run-up to the birth that the campaign budget was doubled to allow for reactive ads to run following the new arrival, as well as Warburton’s humourous approach, which created a real buzz on Twitter.
While big events often serve as focal points for topical ads, or “newsjacking” as popularised by David Meerman Scott, every so often a wonderful one-off comes along demonstrating a brand’s sense of humour.
Just last week a picture was printed in a number of newspapers showing an elephant using the roof of a VW Polo to scratch its belly. The next morning, Volkswagen got an ad in The Daily Telegraph using the clipping to illustrate the car’s “small but tough” credentials – demonstrating how newspapers can provide material for topical ads, as well as host them.
Another masterstroke was Lynx’s response last year after Prince Harry was caught on film during that trip to Vegas, a move cited by Coca Cola’s UK marketing director Zoe Howorth as inspiration for Coke’s marketing campaign, saying: “The world was talking about Prince Harry but Unilever flipped the conversation to talk about the benefits of Lynx in a funny, current way.”
Similarly, TK Maxx also used newspaper advertising to respond to the story that the fourth in line to the throne had been spotted in one of their stores, with the simple yet effective message: “Love your style Harry.”
On a different subject, MINI’s newspaper ad during the horsemeat crisis in 2013 is a great example of a brand responding to a serious news story in a funny and effective way — the ad contributing toward a 3,000% increase in searches for the featured car in the weekend after the activity.
In addition to referencing current news stories, brands also use topical print ads to capitalise on news or developments specifically relating to their own companies.
Just last week, PG Tips responded to an ASA ruling that its pyramid teabags actually do make a better tasting cup of tea with this “Modern wonder of the world” ad, while Mr. Kipling used a similar tactic earlier in the year following reports that that the cake company was planning to drop its “Exceedingly good cakes” strapline.
The brand used the opportunity to run a cheeky newspaper ad stating: “Mr. Kipling doesn’t do rumours, but he does make exceedingly good cakes,” an initiative that picked up favourable trade press coverage.
To me, the above examples demonstrate that, when it comes to topical activity, advertisers have a powerful tool at their disposal. Often positioned next to relevant editorial, newspapers provide the right environment for brands to associate with current news, reinforce their relevancy, and create a lasting impression on readers (particularly if they can make them chuckle).