Print product, brands collide for creative branded content that works

Bonny and Clyde. Victoria and David. Jay Z and Queen Bee. Newspapers and native ads.

Some things just work. And when newspaper titles and brands team up to create branded content, the results are often creative, innovative, and genuinely interesting.

I’m not going to start debating what makes native advertising different from an advertorial. But it was succinctly explained by News UK’s Tiffanie Darke at the Guardian’s Changing Media Summit as “a piece of advertising that understands the platform it’s on and the content it’s around.”

And there have been some brilliant examples of late.

Of course, the focus of this blog is on print, but it goes without saying that many campaigns today run across multiple news brand platforms. Take the Daily Mirror’s recent campaign with Sky 1. Created for the launch of the new show “You, Me, and the Apocalypse,” the activity spanned the print edition, online platforms, and even went into event territory.

Running with the idea of an impending apocalypse, the creative was cleverly woven into content throughout the newspaper:

  • The “o” in the Mirror’s masthead was replaced with a flaming meteor.

  • The television guide was wiped out from 9 p.m. onwards, replaced with an ominous message stating, “If the world ends tonight, so do the TV listings.”

  • The horoscopes were replaced with stars suitable for the imminent doomsday.

The Mirror’s Web site was hit by interference caused by incoming meteorites, including a mock-‘80s style computer code error that rebooted to reveal a trailer for the show.

Taking it one step further, the events activation team at Trinity Mirror Solutions pitched up at MediaCom to hold an apocalyptic takeover of the reception. Complete with cordoned off, “destroyed” pavement outside the entrance and a bible reading priest in the foyer, staff could pose with their own “Final Edition” front page.

This campaign is a brilliant example of an integrated, eye-catching, and fun campaign across a news brand’s platforms. Print has a starring role, allowing for the apocalypse theme to imaginatively unfold, while the entertaining digital activity adds an extra dimension.

As Mark Field, Trinity Mirror Solution’s director of invention, says: “By combining native content with ad space and some cracking original design work that resonates with our audience, we’ve been able to provide a truly bespoke, disruptive solution for Sky 1.”

Another topical and inventive example of a native ad partnership comes from ESI Media, whose newspapers the London Evening Standard, The Independent, and the i, teamed up with O2 for the Rugby World Cup #WearTheRose activity.

Once again, print plays a central role in this campaign. In what ESI says is a media first, the shadow of a rugby player has been appearing behind Rugby World Cup coverage in the print editions, increasing in size as the tournament progresses to reflect O2’s “make them giants” message.

A simple, intriguing, and very effective way of building the brand’s identity into the rugby coverage.

Additionally, O2’s logo, the England rugby rose, and #WearTheRose have been featured on the mastheads of all three newspapers, while the Wear the Rose branding has been rolled out across the Standard’s and Independent’s online rugby channels, as well as on Evening Standard delivery vans.

These recent campaigns come just as we at Newsworks are gearing up for the deadline of our 2015 Newsworks Planning Awards, which are to be chaired by Aviva’s Jan Gooding. Created in 2013 to celebrate the United Kingdom’s planning talent in media agencies, the past two awards have had many great entries, including some fantastic examples of newspapers and brands teaming up for native ad campaigns, many of which have a print element.

Just look at last year’s winning entry of the chair’s award. With the aim of encouraging people to think more positively about Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and drive donations, MediaCom brokered a partnership between the charity and The Telegraph.

By integrating commercial with editorial, the native advertising element of the campaign was able to deliver an emotional message in a highly personal way, with Telegraph writers and well-known names, such as Jennifer Saunders, discussing their personal experiences with cancer.

Another stage of the activity saw CRUK align with relevant sections of The Telegraph to show readers how to get involved in helping the cause. A feature in The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine showed how to create stylish looks at bargain prices in a bid to encourage people to shop, donate, or volunteer at CRUK shops.

Meanwhile, in the sports section, Telegraph writers signed up for Race for Life and explained their personal reasons for doing so.

Through using branded editorial, this campaign was able to address an important issue in a sensitive and engaging way, not to mention its effectiveness — those who read the features felt 30% more positive about CRUK and 27% were more likely to get involved with the charity in the future. According to CRUK’s Becky Johnson, the tie-up was a “truly collaborative partnership,” something our judging panel evidently liked.

All three of these examples demonstrate the power of good content partnerships. They are clever, imaginative, and show an awareness and respect for their editorial context.

Guardian Lab’s Anna Watkins has described branded content as “powerful storytelling” – a concept that applies brilliantly to newspapers in particular. As Maxus’ Nick Baughan puts it, strong native ads are the “perfect confluence between publisher, advertiser, and consumer.”

About Jessie Sampson

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