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05 . 11 . 18

Print ads: Quiet but effective

Words by: Print Power
Dublin Zoo’s marketing team picked a quiet spot amid the noise to break some pretty important news. Proof, if ever it were needed, that loud and expensive isn’t always the effective option

The power of print at a glance:

  • Advertising on a trusted platform like press helps consumers build “a deeper understanding of a story”
  • Print can sometimes be that point of difference that helps advertisers stand out in a crowded marketplace

Have a look at the February 16 issue of The Irish Sun and you’ll notice the Births, Deaths & Notices section of the paper looks, well, a bit strange. Not only was there just one birth to 70 deaths, every last one of them – whether “slashed repeatedly with machete blades” or “shot dead at point blank range” – was a white rhino.

Thank (or blame) Dublin Zoo for the two-page print ad, which never would’ve surfaced were it not for a chat between Rothco art director, Jonathon Cullen, and his sister-in-law, who just so happens to be the marketing director at the zoo.    

“Over dinner she mentioned the upcoming rhino birth and Johnny said, although he understands the zoo doesn’t do much advertising, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to put a flag up and tell people about something remarkable. So that’s how it started,” says Rothco’s executive creative director Alan Kelly. “With a dinner conversation.”

It’s a deceptively simple conceit. One that takes advantage of the audience’s familiarity with the form, and one that isn’t traditionally populated with advertisements. So rather than go big on bells and whistles, Rothco settled on an execution erring on the subtler side. And the approach makes total sense, in light of a growing anti-zoo sentiment.  


The print ad had tremendous reach – at 224,060 unique users and 236,758 impressions. Though most impressive is that, with a campaign spend of just €100, the ad cost just 0.04 cent per impression.

So, aside from the reach and costs, why choose print news media to carry this message?

Says Kelly, “I think it was such a once in a lifetime event, and press is really the go-to medium for those big showpiece stories. It wasn’t a surprise, when it seemed every rock star was dying last year, that brands largely paid their respects in the press. It was the natural thing for the zoo to turn to a medium people know and trust.”

Not convinced? Last year’s Two Sides report, Print and Paper in a Digital World, revealed that many people are more trusting of information in a printed format.

Of the 10,700 people interviewed, 63% believed reading news in print gave them a deeper understanding of a story, while 76% were worried about “fake news” (yes, that phrase again) spreading on digital platforms.


“Press is the natural place for important messages,” says Kelly. “Take the Cambridge Analytica scandal at Facebook earlier this year and the rise of ‘fake news’. There’s plenty of scepticism around digital, much of it having reinforced print’s reputation as a safe haven for important messages. Online, the same message might seem a bit frivolous.”