You shouldn’t put lipstick on a pig; you can put it on a magazine cover

Let’s take a break from innovation fever and revel in some good old-fashioned print creativity, shall we?
By John Wilpers / Innovation Media Consulting Senior Director

Any sane magazine media professional could easily go insane these days from the relentless pressure to keep up with the latest digital innovation that must be adopted to avoid extinction.

Enough already.

Everything innovative is not digital.

I am here this month to delight you with some recent print innovations that have tickled readers’ sense of whimsy while successfully delivering a message for the magazine’s advertiser.

Let’s start with an innovation that is just flat-out fun: Neutrogena’s advertisement for a makeup remover that enabled readers to actually rub makeup off a model’s face on the cover of the Brazilian weekly Caras.

The magazine included a set of Deep Clean wipes which readers could use to clean the makeup from actress Giovanna Ewbank’s face. (Watch DM9DDB director Vitor Manzi demonstrate it here.)
Studies show that touching and handling a product reinforces connections and even entices consumers to pay more for a product, according to the agency handling the Caras campaign, DM9DDB.

FIPP Newsletter #9_PRINT INNOVATIONS_Touched print ads slide

TOUCHING IS BELIEVING”: This study released in July found that readers had a much higher opinion of a brand after they’d interacted through touch with a print medium advertisement. See the slide presentation of the study here. (Slide courtesy of Newsworks)


“This interactive piece of press gives consumers the power to star in the campaign: They handle the product, test, prove and evaluate the outcome,” DM9 vice president of media Drian Ferguson told AdNews. I think that’s agency-speak for “they have fun, they enjoy the product, and they probably tell their friends.”

(By the way, the “Touching is believing” study released in July and “The Effect of Mere Touch” in 2009 found that confidence, satisfaction, reliability, trust and the willingness to purchase all increased when consumers actually touch advertisements in print or digital formats. Touching print ads, for example, increased readers’ belief that the brand is honest and sincere by 41 per cent, quality perceptions by 20 per cent, and purchase intent by 24 per cent.)
Sticking with the theme of fun and the idea that touching is believing, two other companies launched print campaigns with readers making festive calendars and masks.

UK network provider Three used print advertisements to give readers the opportunity to create a festive paper calendar featuring themselves (see picture below), and the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity used print advertisements to give readers the opportunity to create a face frame for a #BadHairDay selfie and donate (see picture below).

PRINT- Three Calendar ad PRINT - Great_Ormond_Street_Hospital__1

Not all innovative print ads are light and fun.

A progressive Vienna-based men’s magazine, Vangardist, wanted to rekindle awareness of the HIV crisis. Their approach was unique in the extreme: The cover and every page was printed with HIV+-infused blood donated by three HIV infected men.

The blood was sent to the University of Innsbruck for pasteurisation, where the heating process ensured that the disease could not be transmitted.
The unusual cover and printing innovation was prompted by the fact that there was an 80 per cent increase in confirmed cases of HIV compared to the 10 years previously, according to The World Health Organisation. “The reason why that’s happening is people just aren’t talking about it anymore,” said Jason Romeyko, the Executive Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland in a press release.


A MAGAZINE PRINTED WITH HIV+ INFUSED BLOOD:  To raise awareness of the continuing threat of HIV, the Vienna-based men’s magazine Vanguardist published an entire edition with HIV+ infused blood. (Photo courtesy of Vanguardist)


The HIV-ink editions came wrapped in plastic, just for effect, with the instruction: “Break the seal and help break the stigma.”. Vangardist created 3,000 copies of the special edition in both German and English.

Fun has been far more prevalent than advocacy, however.

So far in 2015, we’ve seen two really crazy print ideas: The world’s largest print magazine and a magazine to be read using your foot.
Publishing the world’s largest-ever magazine is nothing new, but the sizes keep growing and that is fun in and of itself.


WORLD’S LARGEST MAGAZINE EVER: The folks at Healthy magazine worked with content marketing agency The River Group and the printer Polestar to create a bigger-than-human magazine. The Guinness Book of World Records new magazine-size champion came in at 3.055m in height and 2.35 in width. (Photo courtesy of The River Group)


This time it was the folks at Healthy magazine creating a 7.179-square metres magazine — beating the previous Guinness World Record of 6.96 square metres (Visionaire in 2011). The new champion magazine measured 3.055m in height and 2.35m in width.

The record-breaking magazine took 14 hours to print and weighed in at 238 pounds or 107 kg.

“The idea for producing the world’s biggest person-size magazine came about because at River we like to innovate and everybody these days is saying it’s all about digital and social media and not about print. While we have a thriving digital, social media and, indeed, video business, for us print is still at the heart of a lot of what we do,” said Nicola Murphy, CEO of The River Group. (Watch a video about the process of creating the world’s biggest magazine.)

Then there was the exotic (and bizarre) new magazine about feet designed to be read, appropriately, with your foot. Whether this was a good idea or not (and it would not be difficult to argue the latter), it nonetheless demonstrates that there are still minds out there looking to break new print frontiers, as crazy as those may be.

To promote a new line of foot products, Hansaplast launched Feet Mag with paper heavy enough to be turned with your toes and print large enough to be read from the distance of your eyes to your feet.

Feet_Mag FIPP Newsletter #9 - PRINT - Feet sample

A MAGAZINE TO BE READ WITH YOUR FEET: This falls into the category of ideas you never, ever would have thought of, but then you probably don’t work for a foot products company. To promote a new line of foot care products, Hansaplast created a magazine to be read with your feet, with pages heavy enough to be turned by foot and print large enough to be read from the foot-to-eye distance. (Photo courtesy of The Being Agency)


As bizarre as the whole scheme sounds, the stories and design are quite good and worth a look (check out an edition of the magazine here). They have pulled together foot-related art by Renoir, Gauguin, Delacroix and Manet as well as incredible shoe photos, foot horoscopes, and fashion pics.

I’ve always believed the best approach to print innovation is to pair print with digital.

In March, AnOther magazine out of the UK debuted the first-ever LED cover of a print magazine.

The cover is a very thin, custom-made LED screen featuring a moving image of Rihanna accompanied by a soundtrack by John Gosling. The rest of the magazine is in print.(Watch this video about the creation of the LED cover)

AnOther Mag LED cover

THE FIRST-EVER LED COVER OF A PRINT MAGAZINE: (Photo courtesy of AnOther magazine)


The project almost didn’t happen as the challenge of creating an LED screen thin enough to be a magazine cover seemed unachievable. But then AnOther cofounder Jefferson Hack had lunch with custom design manufacturing company PCH founder Liam Casey, who also happens to operate a digital hardware innovation centre called Highway 1 in San Francisco. Hack met with the Highway 1 staff and they began developing prototypes. Finally, they came up with an LED cover thin enough to work, just in time for the launch at fashion hotspot Colette in Paris followed by another launch at Selfridges.

“I’m really interested in how the industry responds to this gesture,” Hack told “Colette is the launch lab for the industry and we’ll be engaging with a wider audience with a Selfridges launch, where we are doing windows. It will be interesting to see how people react across territories, how people react culturally, how the technology side of the industry reacts and how the consumer reacts. The virtual circle of all that is, hopefully, going towards more innovation in this space.”
Let’s hope the industry reacts with curiosity and a desire to take Hack’s work and that of the other print innovators cited here to keep pushing print to continued vitality in this digital age.