The Real Reason Brands are Turning to Long Form Print Ads (Hint: It’s About Trust)

It’s 2020, and brand messaging matters more now than perhaps at any time in our recent history. And this is fueling a resurgence in long-form print advertising, according to Larry Light writing in Forbes.

“In a world of instant messaging, texts, Twitter tweets, ebooks, podcasts, mini books, video and digital everything, there is something interesting occurring,” writes Light, an award winning marketer and brand strategist. “In the past several months, as the coronavirus and America’s coming face-to-face with racism and inequality are constant news, brands have taken to long form print ads, that is, full page, full-worded communications.”

Light believes brands are returning to the long-form ad – a popular format before digital made brands believe their audiences have the collective attention spans of fruit flies – because they know how important it is to communicate with their audience clearly and precisely.  He notes that a recent Sunday NY Times carried at least six of these long-form ads, including a two-pager from MasterCard.

“These are not apologia ads,” Light writes. “These are Corporate Social Responsibility statements of how brands will be changing to satisfy changing social needs on a broad scale, way beyond the brand’s particular products and services purviews.”

Some brands, like Secret, are using the format to make their stand on gender equality. Other brands, like P&G’s Olay, are making taking a clear stand against racism, while MasterCard’s two-pager clearly articulates its support for the LGBTQ community.

“And, recognizing that many of us will be spending our summer at home where we have been for the past three months, Scotts MiracleGro reminds us that although summer may be different this year, we still have each other and our neighborhoods,” Light continues. “Our families may be stronger; our relationships deeper. We will be growing vegetables.”

It’s fascinating to watch brands embrace the power of printed ads to deliver the kind of messaging we all need right now. The decisions we face, individually and collectively, require much more information than the typical Tweet or IG post. And the decisions brands face require a more thoughtful approach and a medium that can deliver it. As Light reminds us: “We may have to actually spend time and effort to gain information to help us in choice situations.”

Brands also know it is incredibly challenging to get your message out there in the sea of digital noise. A long-form full-page print ad surely grabs attention and offers the space to provide supporting information that has led to that brand’s stance on a certain issue. And because it is in print, it has staying power, unlike the digital ad that is here and gone in seconds.

“Perhaps seeing the commitments in writing is stronger than seeing a commitment in 10 seconds on Quibi or by tapping an app,” Light concludes. “Brand trust cannot be reduced to simplistic, sunny slogans. Carefully worded and crafted full-page print ads may be a media turning point that will last.”