What a difference 12 months have made. When I wrote for this column this time last year, the United Kingdom under Boris Johnson still had COVID-19 restrictions, the horrors of the Ukraine war were still yet to unfold, and England was still dreaming of football coming home (and it did!).
But while the world seemed to change rapidly before our eyes in 2022, one prediction I made last January is just as relevant as ever: Digital, however that loose term manifests itself for news brands and readers, is key.
Print rightly had its place with Grand Prix winners John Ayling & Associates and RNIB exhibiting fantastic innovation in its Braille cover wrap. However, the night was a brilliant display of what advertisers can achieve when they explore the full range of platforms where readers interact with news brand content.
Whereas contextual ads would once only appear cleverly placed next to a story in print, now brands can place in print and wherever they might be relevant to consumers around stories online.
A whole new set of consumer expectations around platforms allow for striking subversions from the norm, hammering home key messages in trusted environments.
Here are just a few examples of brands leading the way into 2023.
When the Guardian announced the partnership between its renowned Saturday food supplement “Feast” and established grocery delivery brand Ocado, it was always going to be a match made in culinary heaven.
The brand took over advertising space in the print edition and alongside digital versions, using QR codes to link to recipes curated by top chefs using ingredients available at Ocado. Readers could then put all the ingredients into their baskets with one simple click.
The brand also embraced the indulgent side of food by sponsoring a portion of the Guardian’s “Comfort Eating with Grace Dent” podcast.
As providers of information on everything from politics and finance to sport and fashion, news brands offer advertisers abundant opportunities to harness the benefits of context. This was particularly important in TSB’s strategy to increase awareness of its new Fraud Refund Guarantee.
Using print and online space, the campaign appeared around content both directly dealing with fraud and indirect cultural moments with a fraudulent angle, such as The Tinder Swindler. With digital stories, the brand placed ads using Ozone’s scale and targeting capabilities, as well as advanced natural language processing and semantic technology, to engage and re-engage with news brand readers in the right frame of mind to consider its new guarantee.
When we take shortcuts, we never think our lives might be cut short. But with 75% of railway trespassers over the age of 18, the United Kingdom’s rail infrastructure operator needed a campaign that would give digital shortcutters an unexpected message.
Partnering with Reach’s digital news brands, the campaign cleverly utilised the “skip ad” feature familiar to many Internet users. It created a fake button on a normal-looking safety ad, tricking skippers into a clip that saw the presenter “wiped out” by visual special effects, followed by a stark message on the dangers of trespassing. A genius use of a campaign’s environment to subvert expectations.
Despite the exciting opportunities publishers’ digital platforms can bring to a campaign, none of these examples negates the impact print has when marking moments of national conversation and togetherness.
Lloyds Bank’s takeover of the Evening Standard’s special edition for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee put the brand front and centre for the thousands pouring into London’s streets. Ads throughout the free newspaper commemorating the Queen’s 70-year reign and the transformation of British society reminded readers Lloyds had been by their side every step of the way.
Last but not least, the Grand Prix winners’ put accessibility around visual disabilities at the front of readers’ minds with the first Braille cover wrap.
The front page carried a message exclusively addressing people with visual impairments. Even rendering Metro’s masthead in Braille acknowledged that that moment may be the first time those with visual impairments could read a newspaper. The campaign contributed to a wider campaign to raise money for Braille letters to visually impaired children from Santa.
The wrap proved not just that innovation can happen with any medium, but that innovation has the power to do good. Well-deserved Grand Prix winners!