Evolving digital connectivity changes holiday advertising

The weeks approaching Christmas mid-1970s in my childhood home worked like this: My two older sisters passed the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog back and forth between them in their off-limits teen bedroom, hoarding it until my brother could steal it away.

Then the two of us passed it back and forth, making Christmas wish lists on three-hole notebook paper to hand off to our parents well in advance of December 25.

Awe-inspiring in their greed and detail, the lists spelled out on what page of the slick holiday book the desired object could be found, along with the desired size (if applicable) and quantity (if one was feeling especially piggish).

Certainly our parents could have used these lists to peer deeply into our childish psyches for clues to the state of our family (for example, a request for matching tartan pajamas, gowns, and slippers for the entire family, including a wrap for the dog) or about the needful urge to transform the yard into a neighbourhood park (for example, a request for a 16-foot octagon trampoline).

In its wondrous pages could be found things you didn’t even know you needed: A grandfather clock! An air hockey game on which to smash one’s fingertips! You could find things you definitely needed: In my brother’s case, a red Schwinn Stingray bicycle with a banana seat, or in my groovy sisters’ case, a set of beanbag chairs in primary colours.

My taste, as the youngest, was unrefined. I begged for and received items such as an Easy Bake Oven (used once, “sugar cookies” mix included in the set tasted like salt), a “Baby Alive” doll (“Baby Alive, soft and sweet. She can drink, she can eat,” went the television advertisement. Need I say more?).

My parents made no lists for us kids. If they had, Dad’s would have read, “Perry Como album, Notre Dame knit cap,” and Mom’s would have said simply, “To be left alone after the holiday meal is over.”

How times have changed.

Married up now with the incredible richness of slick newspaper inserts are targeted digital and mobile ads, helpfully following your digital tracks and letting your husband know you’ve been shopping for a Dale of Norway sweater (ice blue, black, and cream, please).

Saved in digital shopping carts (hint! hint!) are things like a Galaxy Tab 3 Lite, a Garmin nüvi 2797LMT 7-Inch Portable Bluetooth Vehicle GPS (with Lifetime Maps and Traffic), and a Barbour Bedale wax cotton jacket. You have good taste, hubby.

Incorporated into newspaper Web sites are services like “find and save,” which help shoppers who love print inserts and who are also in love with their smartphones enjoy the best of both worlds.

Wishabi is another brilliant marriage of national and local print inserts, which lets savvy shoppers save coupons and bar codes on mobile devices, e-mail ads to friends, and ask the newspaper Web site to e-mail them directly when certain retail ads appear in the newspaper or on its Web site.

Augmented Reality offers yet another layer of cool and usefulness for newspaper readers and shoppers alike. Think about newspaper applications when you check out Wikitude, described this way: “Wikitude (Android, iOS) is a location-aware Augmented Reality browser that uses your phone camera and location data to help you search for nearby landmarks, restaurants, or people. Just enter a search term, say ‘Thai restaurants,’ and then raise up your smartphone camera to take a look around you, with a digital overlay displaying any nearby matches.

You can also select particular categories or worlds’ of content if youre looking for restaurants, historic locations, upcoming events, and other information.”

Or this fantastic case study from the National Post of Toronto, for Nissan:

I learn a lot from – and love a lot in – newspaper inserts (for example, celery goes on sale around Thanksgiving, who knew?). To be had are colourful images of turkey, ham, pumpkin pies, cans of black olives, and bottles of champagne.

But there’s room for audiences to be satisfied by newspapers’ technical prowess, too. Because really, it’s possible your spouse needs both a clipped-out-and-taped-to-the-bathroom-mirror ad of a classic dive watch and a digitally “clipped and saved” shiny photo ad that can be sent repeatedly via text message. I know you love me, honey.

Happy holidays!

About Kathleen Coleman

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