Print: Alive and Creative?

This was the name of a panel I was on last Thursday, part of a series hosted by the Financial Communications Society in advance of their annual awards gala. While honored to have been invited, I did wonder: is print really alive and creative? More interesting than any positive things I could say about the medium would have been for me to argue it’s dead. But not sure our host would have appreciated that. Nor do I think it’s true. We won an award for this ad that night, and it’s one of which I’m quite fond.

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Unlike much print advertising, this one respects its role: deliver a quick impression that will make the audience more apt to answer the phone when a sales person calls. That’s it. We chose a commanding headline, both visually and through the provocation of the message, and a simple accompanying visual. If the reader wants to read the copy too, super! But they don’t have to. Arguably one of the smartest guys who ever lived thought the world was flat, which begs the question: what other common belief, accepted practice or, in our case, investment strategy, exists right now that we’ll later determine is BS? Challenge the Index, our advertising campaign, means don’t accept anything at face value – this is the philosophy our brand has followed since the company was established in 1959, and we keep finding new ways of expressing it because it’s as alive today as it was 60 years ago.

But is PRINT as alive as it once was?

In financial services alone, investment in the medium has gone down a whopping 50% since 2015, while digital climbs and climbs. Why? You can’t measure print; you have to rely on a (GASP!) gut belief that it’s working. And that can be a really hard sell to a marketer’s internal powers-that-be. How accurately we can really measure digital, however, is a whole other issue. One that’s being exacerbated by major data and privacy concerns of late. Starts to make boring old print sound a little more attractive?

Did you know: 134 new print titles have launched since 2017, both by brands and publishers! Perhaps just as many have folded, but regardless, the fact that there are 134 new ones proves a belief in the medium. A medium whose audience is arguably more engaged than any other, when engagement is today’s hottest commodity. Thanks to digital everything, we can’t concentrate on anything anymore. But if I’m going to sit down and read a magazine, I’ve committed. Especially because I’ve paid for that content. And I wouldn’t pay for it if I didn’t think it was worth the money. I’d argue the ads in that magazine (or newspaper) benefit from this. Wouldn’t it be great if all the ads were really worth that money too?

My industry isn’t known for the best advertising. So much of the art of advertising has been lost because new media are so much more forgiving in terms of their format. Shove as much as you can in there – charts, graphs, star ratings, marketing speak, three-quarters of a page of disclaimers because of all of the aforementioned detail and there you have it: an ad! Or, a dog’s breakfast. We’ve forgotten how to deliver a quick punch. A good print ad is an insight distilled down into its simplest form. And it’s super hard to do well. Sadly, most don’t.

My conclusion: print is as alive and creative as an advertiser decides it should be. Here are some advertisers who’ve decided it is.

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