Forget about fish and chips wrappers or birdcage liners. Last month, two publishers in vastly different geographies invented unique, practical, and socially conscious uses for their printed products.
These innovations include a waterproof newspaper that turns into an umbrella in rain-drenched Ecuador and a newspaper with citronella ink that repels deadly mosquitoes in Sri Lanka.
And both publishers managed to increase sales in the process.
In Guayaquil, Ecuador, where it rains a lot, the publisher of the best-selling Diario Extra found that street sales declined during rainy season. Working with local advertising agency Maruri Grey, Extra decided to print the newspaper with a plastic waterproof coating on the front and back pages during rainy season.
The result: a newspaper that doubles as an umbrella, which is aptly called the Umbrella Newspaper.
Under the tagline, “Rain isn’t bad news anymore,” Extra’s Umbrella Newspaper helped to increase circulation by 12%, and ad sales went up 16% over the previous rainy season. In addition, 21 new advertisers signed up to run display ads in the waterproof edition.
In Colombo, Sri Lanka, the national Mawbima mixed citronella essence with its printing ink to repel mosquitos carrying the potentially lethal dengue fever virus. Mawbima worked with the Leo Burnett agency to develop this campaign “where every letter of every word helps Sri Lankans to stop dengue.”
According to the Mawbima campaign, dengue fever reached epidemic proportions in Sri Lanka in 2013, with more than 30,000 reported cases.
Because Sri Lankans typically read newspapers in the early morning and evening – the times of day when the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carrying dengue are most likely to strike – Mawbima decided to launch its public health campaign during National Dengue Week.
By mixing ink with the naturally mosquito-repelling citronella oil, Mawbima produced a newspaper that actually helped prevent readers from getting bitten. Even with a larger press run, the newspaper sold out by 10 a.m. the morning of the launch, and Mawbima saw a 30% increase in newsstand sales.
“But what was even more remarkable,” according to the campaign’s video, “was that the newspaper’s readership increased by 300,000 more readers, allowing us to help and educate more people than we ever expected.”
Mawbima published its first mosquito-repellent edition on World Health Day. The newspaper also ran articles on how to prevent dengue and gave mosquito prevention patches to schoolchildren. In addition, the campaign included public service posters in bus stops that were soaked in citronella oil to help keep commuters bite-free.
The efforts of Extra and Mawbima demonstrate the enduring power of print. More important, they illustrate the vital role that publishers continue to play in our local and national communities.
Keeping readers dry during torrential downpours. Fending off disease-carrying insects. Serving as political, social, and economic watchdogs. Even soaking up excess grease from deep-fried cod. By continuing to innovate, print publishers will continue to survive.