Print is Alive (and Well)

Case in point: The world's biggest social media company launches a print magazine, a grocery retailer creates a real-time newspaper ad and Ikea produces a print ad that doubles as a pregnancy test.

For the last few years, amidst suggestions of print’s decline, we’ve been tracking inspiring examples that prove the contrary. In our digital world, print more than ever has the power to stand out as a hands-on, sensory, memorable and personal communications vehicle to connect with audiences of all ages. When mixed and mingled with digital and tech innovation, print offers exciting possibilities for brands to be interactive, engaging and creative.

How is print’s fate looking half-way through 2018? A recent Forbes article outlined 5 Marketing Trends to Pay Attention to in 2019. And yes – print did make the list. Citing a software company that sent out print newsletters to targeted physical addresses, the article states “creativity, not conformity, will set successful marketers apart.” Print is a way to stand out in the clutter.

Today’s epitome of “print in a digital world” is perhaps Facebook’s recent launch of a print magazine. Dubbed a “A quarterly magazine for business leaders – by Facebook,” Grow magazine launched in June in business class lounges at Heathrow Airport and other exclusive locations. Facebook isn’t releasing many details on the venture, but it’s interesting that a social media giant is at least experimenting in print. FIPP takes a closer look here.

For more recent inspiration – and evidence – of print in our digital world, we can turn to the recent Print & Publishing nominations at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Kate Stanners, the leading judge in the category, expressed her confidence in the medium, stating that “the permanence of print gives it unrivalled authority and potency in messaging to mass audiences.” While it has its constraints, “print thrives on the idea that creativity shines strongest when forced to work within set boundaries.”

To provide inspiration, we hand-picked a sampling of Cannes nominations below. They are creative, clever and memorable because they make use of print.

Tagwords – Budweiser (Winner of the 2018 Cannes Grand Prix in Print & Publishing)

Many big rock stars have been photographed with Bud products over the decades. But licensing such photos would be a costly endeavour. Brazilian agency Africa found a fun way to still make use of the iconic photos through a “Tagwords” print and outdoor campaign. Tracking the key words associated with all those legendary moments, they used large type to direct viewers to specific Google searches, which would then pull up images of rock stars drinking Budweiser. For example, searching “1965 poolside Florida Budweiser” brings up a picture of Mick Jagger, can of Bud in hand.


“FCK” – KFC (2018 Cannes Gold Lion winner)

Following a chicken shortage in the U.K., KFC apologized to the public with a full-page ad in The Sun and Metro that spoke on a frank, human level. The headline shifted one letter to immediately capture the mood of the KFC organization and that of its customers (who until then didn’t realize how much they missed their KFC chicken). The fact that it was a press ad was critical: “Because sometimes when you’re responding to the news, you have to behave like (and indeed become) news.” The campaign was covered in 733 articles and shared to a social media audience of well over two million.


Highlight the Remarkable – Stabilo

To demonstrate the truth behind the popular phrase “Behind every great man is a great woman,” this print ad campaign rewrote history by highlighting remarkable women and their stories.

Fresh Prints – Aldi supermarket (Spain)

Newspapers are like Aldi Supermarket’s fresh products – they are the freshest thing you’ll find every morning and they’re replaced daily. Most people don’t know that Aldi offers these products, so the company published some special prints where its product was wrapped just like in traditional markets in Spain: in newspaper. But in this case, the page was the same as the left-hand page of the newspaper and it had the freshest news of the day. Co-ordinated with the newspaper, they were given the breaking news just before the close of the presses to quickly finalize their own creative and use something that seems exclusive to digital: real time.



Unreadable Books – Literacy Partners

With the support of some bestselling authors and publishers, illegible versions of their book jackets (with every word scrambled) were created that slipped over existing covers of their books. By reading these covers, people were given a little taste of what it’s like for 1 in 5 New York adults who have difficulty reading. The covers stopped people in their tracks. When they inevitably turned the book around, they were given two easy ways to donate: a text to donate number or via a special barcode that could be scanned at the register by the store cashier.


Black Spots – Eir

In Ireland, areas of poor mobile phone coverage are a constant problem; people refer to these areas as “black spots.”  To launch its innovative WiFi calling that addresses the problem, eir, the country’s largest telecom company, chose a medium that isn’t traditionally known for innovation and created a simple analogy for what WiFi calling actually does. They took over the entire Daily Mail magazine and removed every single black spot. Every full stop, semi colon and tittle was replaced with a colourful eir dot. “No one likes black spots. So eir got rid of them.”


IKEA Pee Ad (2018 Cannes Gold Lion Winner)

Starting a family is the start of a new life stage, where IKEA becomes super relevant. This campaign was true to life and broke some cultural advertising taboos by focusing on the moment you discover your family is about to become bigger – essentially, when you pee on a stick. But what if the thing you peed on didn’t have to be conventional pregnancy test, but an ad?

IKEA pee ad


The Curious Cat Book – Mars Petcare (Whiskas’)

Based on a true story, “The Most Curious Cat in the Word” book tells the saga of a cat who traveled 600,000 miles in 52 days after escaping from its travel carrier on a flight to London.  Illustrations of 16 destinations were beautifully crafted on every page and each one featured a surprise: toys to nourish cats’ curiosity. Feathers, wool lines, a tunnel, catnip and many other elements were attached to the book. Every social influencer who received the Curious Cat Book posted about it. As a result, the book was news on design, pet lovers and marketing websites. Whiskas’ saw a significant increase in brand awareness and engagement on social media. There were so many requests for the book, that a version is being developed to be sold at bookstores and pet shops.

Curious Cat Book


First Steps – SC Johnson

To indirectly promote KIWI®’s  line of shoe care products, a series of podcasts shared stories of iconic figures (the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Ernest Hemingway) whose shoes are also portrayed in the linked print/outdoor campaign.  Each podcast tells one specific story central to the heroes’ greatness and allows the audience to feel “what it was like to be in their shoes.”



In our age in which people are constantly on their smartphones, this print ad campaign invited invite everyone to turn off their devices and enjoy these precious moments of life without distractions.

Switch off print ad campaign

Fore more inspiration of ideas that jump off the page, check out the complete listing of 2018 Cannes Print & Publishing nominations here.