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31 . 05 . 18

Eir hits the sweet spot by ditching the black dot

Words by: Print Power
Creative print marketing done right: when agency Rothco needed to demonstrate that its telecoms client provided excellent Wi-Fi boosting even in weak-signal “black spots”, it swapped out every black dot in the print edition of the Irish Daily Mail. That’s a lot of full stops, semicolons… and, um, tittles?
print marketing eir black spots.png

The power of print at a glance

  • Many creatives first think of digital when considering innovation – but nothing surprises people like clever print advertisements.
  • The best newspaper campaigns aren’t a dumping ground for unnecessary details.
  • There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, if the right idea is executed correctly.

“I often visit Achill Island [off the coast of County Mayo] where my mother-in-law spent some of her childhood, and it’s impossible to find phone reception,” says Alan Kelly, executive creative director at Rothco. “Sometimes that can be a good thing… but not if you’re a resident or telecoms company.”

Well, worry no more, Alan’s mum-in-law! A new service by Ireland’s largest telecom, eir, uses Wi-Fi to boost reception in weaker “black spots” across The Emerald Isle. But you might not have heard about Wi-Fi Calling at all if you hadn’t picked up the Irish Daily Mail late last year.

The October 6 issue of the newspaper featured a world first in print advertising: every black dot/spot in the publication – from the full stops and semicolons, to the little tittles (stop giggling, for God’s sake) on the i’s and j’s – was replaced with a colourful eir dot.

print marketing eir black spots.png (1)

“The complete print takeover was originally put to me as an ‘is this possible’ idea,” says Kelly. “We loved it, obviously – but we weren’t sure whether the Mail would go for it. They did, immediately.”

Print advertising is a still a staple of plenty marketing plans, of course. But all too often, the execution can be… well, a bit vanilla. So, anything that showed newspapers to be an innovative medium, while also proving the advantages of print advertising, was always going to appeal.

“Brands, particularly in Ireland, overlook print,” says Kelly. “The medium has become a box-ticking exercise. Almost as if it were for the boring detail stuff post-TV ad. Laziness has crept into the mix, and the craft of print advertising has all but disappeared.”

Remembering his time spent as a copywriter, Kelly says that some of his favourite print advertisements were – and still are – the ones that Volkswagen produced during the 1950s and beyond.

“It’s the simplicity,” he says. “Before that, print was a place for dumping information – the more the better. When those VW ads emerged, people sat up (certainly in the advertising world) and saw that print media could have a huge impact.”

The Black Spots ad is a return to form – taking a familiar media and doing something unfamiliar with it. Injecting new life into a channel where brands seldom innovate, drumming up praise along the way from the likes of Adweek and shots.

As for results? You could say the media coverage had no black spots (sorry).

In a country with a population of 4.7 million, this single ad, placed in a newspaper with a circulation of just 41,000, has reached upwards of 6.7 million people, according to Rothco. Print power indeed.

“I think a lot of creatives will automatically think ‘digital media’ when they think innovation,” says Kelly. “But for me, you’re really looking for an opportunity to surprise people.”