Breaking through creative boundaries and newspaper columns

In advertising, the way to reach the consumer with the greatest impact is to use creativity to break through the clutter or to be disruptive. These terms are most often associated with out-of-home (OOH) and digital platforms respectively; however, the techniques are just as relevant and equally effective when used in print.

The recent Budget Insurance ad in City Press is a case in point – a small blue car breaks through creative boundaries and newspaper columns as its bonnet dents the advertorial on the opposite side of a centre spread. This innovative and visually striking technique both disrupts the normal flow of text and breaks through the clutter of traditionally placed newspaper adverts. The effect is startling and it will certainly grasp the consumer’s attention.

Disruptive advertising in City Press breaks through the clutter

Creativity is the soul of advertising

“Creativity is the soul of advertising and branding. It is what gives life to messages about products and services that may otherwise be boring or insignificant in the hearts and minds of target customers,” says Neil Kokemuller in an article about ‘The Role of Creativity in Advertising’.

Creativity in print advertising is particularly impactful both in grabbing a consumer’s attention and also in leading them down the path to purchase. According to Red Marketing Tips creativity is important in advertising because, “with good visual effects it will attract the target audience’s attention and creates interest by establishing feelings of desire to bring about an action to purchase. It differentiates the ‘me too’ products by influencing attitudes and feelings to position the brand in preference above a competitors brand. Creative ads achieve objectives.”

The five dimensions of creativity in advertising

The Harvard Business Review quotes Stephan Vogel, Ogilvy & Mather Germany’s chief creative officer, “Nothing is more efficient than creative advertising. Creative advertising is more memorable, longer lasting, works with less media spending, and builds a fan community…faster.” The article goes on to mention the importance of originality as the first of five dimensions of creativity in advertising, as defined by Robert Smith and his colleagues at Indiana University, based on educational psychologist,  Ellis Paul Torrance’s definition of creativity, “An original ad comprises elements that are rare or surprising, or that move away from the obvious and commonplace. The focus is on the uniqueness of the ideas or features contained in the ad. An ad can diverge from norms or experiences by applying unique visual or verbal solutions, for instance.”

The other four dimensions are: flexibility when an ad smoothly links the product to a range of different uses or ideas; elaboration where unexpected details or simple ideas in an ad become more intricate or complicated; synthesis which involves the blending or connecting of normally unrelated objects or ideas; and artistic value when ads are viewed by consumers as art rather than a blatant sales pitch because of aesthetically appealing visual and verbal elements and a clever concept.

A print brainstorm

It is all very well understanding creativity and why it is vital, but how does one come up with innovative print campaigns? Canva Design School provides some guidelines to break through the advertising clutter and make a memorable advertisement for your audience or target market, “First come up with a solid concept and then consider your design. Attention to layout and presentation will help your ad get noticed; but attention to concept and creativity will help your ad be remembered.”

The article goes on to list various techniques to gain maximum impact with a print campaign, some of these include:

  • Use the fold
  • Make your audience look twice
  • Play with the format
  • Make use of newspaper columns
  • Use story telling
  • Play on words or give letters life
  • Re-interpret a famous image or icon
  • Have fun with logos
  • Make comparisons or unearth some fun facts
  • Depict a feeling people can relate to
  • Use a visual metaphor
  • Trick the eye, use optical illusions and play with perception
  • Create a sense of movement
  • Connect the tagline with the image
  • Take advantage of a white page
  • Break a pattern or use bold colours
  • Evoke the senses through creative imagery


Another increasingly popular technique, especially internationally is to use technology and smart phones to encourage readers to interact with a print ad. A phone can be placed over part of the image to animate it or can be used to add a soundtrack to a print ad. The reader can interact with the print ad with their smart phone through a game or a visual demonstration. Internationally brands have inserted technological devices into print ads that do some quite impressive things, from changing the colours of the ad, to inflating mini demo airbags, to being used to track children on a beach or charge a mobile phone from an embedded solar panel.

Fly sheets, inserts, belly bands and wraps can be used very effectively to get a reader’s attention and they open up the potential to use different grades and types of paper or other materials. Certain types of paper can do amazing things, as is once again demonstrated in international campaigns, such as like transform from a black and white image to colour when held up to the light, or used to wrap around a beer and “fast-chill” it in the fridge.

Multipage visual story telling is another effective technique, where the story unfolds in sequence. Speaking of folds, the centre fold is not the only option when it comes to folding paper, instructions to fold the paper in various ways to reveal something surprising or unexpected provides an array of creative opportunities. Creative layout of text and imagery that breaks away from the standard newspaper design, yet remains similar enough to create a point of difference always stands out. Use the medium itself, the paper, the ink and the way the pages are turned, or held, or folded to bring in a novel or unexpected element.

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