Print as the Platform for Creativity in Advertising


It’s #TBT, so we thought we’d revisit a terrific article from last spring, “If Print Dies It’s the End of Creativity in Advertising” by Simon Greasey. In his piece, he gathers thoughts from four of the world’s top designers to debate why print holds such a sacred place in the creative process.

“Print Power invited Charles Vallance, founder of creative agency VCCP; Peter Knapp, global creative director at Landor Associates; Robin Harvey, founding creative director of Net-A-Porter; and George Lois, the original ‘mad man’ of Madison Avenue, to take part in a round table debate about the future of print marketing and discuss what changes these new digital channels have brought about,” Greasey wrote.

When asked why print is such an effective marketing tool, the answers were insightful.

“Print is effective because it has the benefit of a full-page ad,” answered Vallance. “There’s no full-screen digital ad. A print ad can be more effective in a speciality magazine purchased by people passionate about a specific subject. There are no distracting links, alerts or videos. It’s a physical thing that uses the sense of touch. Research has shown that reading from a screen is 20-30% slower than reading from paper.”

Knapp said, “Print is so effective simply because it’s everywhere. There is a ubiquity to it in terms of one’s own personal environment. Whether it’s in a magazine, on a billboard that you walk past on the way to work or on the tube, there’s a ubiquity and scale to it, and that’s its effectiveness. It’s a very scalable medium.”

Vallance had this to say on why print is often the best starting point for a multi-channel campaign: “A good print ad communicates the idea fast. It doesn’t need coding, user experience design or interaction design. Print designers can concentrate on tone of voice rather than technical design. A print ad contains the ‘tone of voice’ required to fan out into digital and social.”

Lois reiterated the importance for designers to be fluent in print as well as digital, something we advocate strongly around here.

“Shockingly, most art directors today admit print is not their ‘expertise’. Huh? Once again, understand that print is your memorable selling idea, placed on paper. If print dies, it’s the end of creativity in advertising,” said Lois.

For the next generation of designers and art directors, this can’t be stressed strongly enough. Print is where it begins.