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17 . 12 . 18

Print: 2018 year in review

Words by: Print Power
From upstart publishers and plucky brands to chicken shortages and pee-soaked paper, 2018 has been a year not to forget for print media
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Where better to start than with a quote from Uncommon founder and fellow print evangelist Nils Leonard, who says, “in the real world, people f****** hate advertising.”  Harsh, but not exactly false. At least not entirely.

In a 2018 survey, more than half of respondents said they’d rather websites hosted fewer ads. While 45% found their social media ad experience frustrating. Pervasive, intrusive and sometimes downright annoying, this appears to be the consensus on a crowded media landscape. One where any message that cuts through is doing a bloody good job.

So here’s how print media did exactly that in 2018.

Awards aplenty

Surprise, surprise, doomsday sayers are still mouthing off about the supposed death of print. And yet, the channel has been cleaning up at awards dos year round. Perhaps none more so than KFC’s sweary chicken shortage apology, which picked up a Magnetic Spotlight Award for best topical campaign and proved that print, particularly news media, has gravitas and authority.

Gravitas and authority that Oxfam looked to channel earlier this year with a full-page apology ad in UK newspapers – among them the very paper that exposed allegations of sexual misconduct following the Haiti quake in 2010. Then there was Facebook, which took a reputational knock after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and so chose to take much the same approach, using news media to make the apology.

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But back to awards, where we simply have to mention the D&AD Yellow Pencil award-winning Ikea pee ad (below). An ad that revealed a special cot discount to those who peed on it and were pregnant (more here). And then there was Ikea SÖMNIG (also below), with its subtle lavender aroma and white noise amplifier. The hope here being that it helps sleep deprived Emiratis get 40 winks.   

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Ikea pee test

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Even the folks at Cannes took a break from their bubbles to politely clap a couple of campaigns to the podium.

Shoe polish brand Kiwi trotted out the history of six famous pairs of shoes, belonging to the likes of Muhammad Ali, Ernest Hemingway and Amelia Earhart, taking home the Grand Prix for industry craft.

While Budweiser’s ‘Tagwords’ topped the print and publishing category with a billboard campaign that encouraged passersby to Google the beer brand’s place in history – rather than them forking out millions for the image rights.

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Kiwi first steps

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Budweiser tagwords

High praise from big names

Sure we can blabber on about the vital role of print in the media mix all we want. But don’t take our word for it, take it from some of the biggest names in the biz.

Claire Beale, global editor-in-chief at Campaign, penned a piece in August, and in it pointed to Advertising Association figures to show that print display and revenue was up for the first time in seven years. This, she said, was “a small but significant boost for trusted, curated quality content when the narrative for so long has been decline and decay for traditional formats and established media brands.”

Mark Ritson then responded to a report by Radiocentre and ebiquity, highlighting the degree by which marketers’ perceptions about which channels perform best are divorced from reality. Magazines, newspapers and direct mail, turns out, are far more effective than your average advertiser or agency would have you believe. Go figure.

“One,” says Ritson, “must feel some sympathy for news media, which are perceived as having little to any impact on ROI. In reality, they offer some of the most significant campaign lifts for those clients that can look beyond the bullshit of the ‘death’ of news media and see the continued potential of print advertising.”

Marketing guru Dave Trott also chimed in on the topic, noting that marketers are chasing online advertising despite 88% of them confirming it has no measurable impact on their business – or that 43% of mobile ad impressions are fraudulent and only 52% of web traffic is human.  

Then there was Thinkbox’s Matt Hill, who expressed concerns that a rash of effectiveness studies (here) are being ignored by marketers. Effectiveness, he and others claim, is “nose-diving because of an over-emphasis on short termism and chasing easy to measure metrics”.

Finally, PwC’s Neil Duncan echoed Hill’s sentiment, saying “there has been a destructive trend of advertisers developing short-term strategies that have led to a number of important false conclusions about effectiveness… Effectiveness measurement relies on access to the right data, and advertisers need to ensure that they are working with partners who are both committed to effectiveness and its measurement.”

Measurement takes centre stage

No surprise then that this year we’ve seen JICMAIL and PAMCO address false assumptions about print media effectiveness, using (you guessed it) data.

Data which, in the case of JICMail, tells us that 21% of all addressed mail and door-drop items drive commercial actions. Data that stunned Starcom’s Elliott Millard, who said “honestly, I’m astonished by those numbers – totally off the general perception that DM is binned.”

Then came PAMCo: a “world-class audience measurement currency” that breaks down how we consume media across all platforms. It, according to Time UK CEO Marcus Rich, “totally changes the way advertisers and agencies can work with publishers.” And confirms that published media – and magazines in particular – are strong on engagement and attention.

Both important developments for print media, with an emphasis on targeting and measurement that, according to Whistl MD Mark Davies, represents “a real step change in bringing evaluation and attribution into the… conversation.” Expect to see more in the coming year.

Here’s what you might’ve missed

Sure, all this tells us a thing or two about the future of the medium. But how about the party pieces? The left-of-field campaigns. The untraditional side of traditional media, if you will.

Well how about an Old Spice print ad that doubles as a scented paper blazer? The male grooming brand inserted a full-sized, paper jacket into the April issue of GQ, and threw some shade at an industry caught up on elaborate packaging and premium price tags.  

Habitat for Humanity, a global, non-profit housing organisation, created posters to help prevent mosquito-borne diseases. Not only did they provide important information about mosquito bites, etc., but way more interesting was that the ink dissolved in rainwater to release a powerful insecticide that lasts up to 60 days.

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Old Spice paper jacket

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Habitat for Humanity mosquito poster

Speaking of unusual paper applications, Grey Group created a ‘life saving hack’ with a leaflet that detected carbon monoxide leaks. While Saatchi & Saatchi IS Warsaw created Bee Saving Paper packaging, which they infused with energy-rich sugars as a kind of energy drink for declining bee populations. 

Japanese health company ANGFA created a Washable Book to teach children in Cambodia the importance of having clean hands. And Kobe Shimbun featured Emergency Collectibles, an ad that turned a boring, typically low-priority task into a life-saving treasure hunt.


ANGFA washable book

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Kobe Shimbun emergency collectibles

But not all campaigns are as lofty minded or technologically impressive as these. Some, like BA’s World Cup boarding pass, capitalised on a top-of-mind event with a simple, clever and timely execution. And others, like LA Galaxy’s print ad to celebrate the arrival of living legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the club, are so simple it defies belief.    

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BA Moscow ticket

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LA Times Zlatan

The ROI message

Clearly there are plenty of smart, experimental and innovative executions out there, but that’s only part of the picture. The one that says print is engaging, effective, and boosts ROI. Because by god it really does, and we’ve plenty of proof on to say so.

From studies to show that marketers are missing out on £3bn of potential profits, to experts who say “we are being over-hyped and over-sold on a uniquely digital future”, this isn’t a platform to be taken lightly.

So if you’re hungry for more on the print story in 2018 and beyond, take a trip around site.