Blast from the past captures reader attention, advertising dollars


Imagine my surprise when I picked up my Saturday newspaper to see a picture of a stern-faced JFK with a headline that talked about a possible invasion of Cuba. I would like to say it was a scene from Groundhog Day, but I wasn’t even born in 1961.

What’s up, I asked myself?

Needless to say my curiosity was aroused.

It turns out the gatefold around the front of the Toronto Star on that day was part of a clever advertising campaign promoting the launch of The Kennedys — a four-part epic movie event on History Television.

Wow, what a clever use of old news to catch the reader’s eye.

It had me hooked.

I spoke with Carey Anderson, advertising sales manager at the Star, to better understand how this creative execution was developed. I assumed it came from a brilliant mind at a local advertising agency. In reality it was a joint effort of brilliant minds, including creative input from both the client’s internal creative staff and our very own Lorne Silver, the Star’s director of creative.

Shaw Communications, which owns History Television in Canada, had approached the Star looking for a unique opportunity to promote its Kennedy miniseries. Lorne was brought into the picture, and we very soon had an historical front from 1961 that would catch the readers’ interest and draw them into the ad. The outside of the gatefold was news from the past and the inside was a page and a half promoting the event. It was a brilliant promotion.

I spoke to a senior PR person at Shaw, who said the company was thrilled with the programme and the results. The television audience for the series was exceptional. It was also a win for the Star because we ran the campaign ad again on Sunday on the front page of The New York Times section within the Toronto Star. By doing so, we are able to secure the entire print budget for the launch. That’s remarkable given that there are six daily English-language newspapers in the Toronto market.

This advertising programme is an excellent example of how there are still interesting advertising opportunities in print. It also makes me wonder how often this particular approach might be used. Let’s all search our archives and find a few more nuggets like this one that can be pitched to clients.

It’s nice to see innovation alive and well in our business.

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