Following 2017’s brand safety revelations, the role the environment plays in ad campaigns continued to grab attention in 2018. However, rather than just ensuring the basics — that ads are viewable and in brand-safe environments — there was a renewed focus on the numerous additional benefits of factoring context into campaign planning.

With research showing that news brands’ context has a positive impact across a range of brand measures — from attention paid to memorability and, ultimately, profit — choosing a particular context is a powerful choice for brands looking to reach a large, highly engaged audience of 24 million people per day.

Among the ads that stood out in 2018 are those capitalising on news brands’ role in setting the news agenda each day. These advertisers harnessed the power of the press to change the conversation about a brand, make a campaign headline news, or incite debate.

Here are some of 2018’s best ads, drawn from the winners of the 2018 Newsworks Planning Awards.

KFC

There’s no way you made it through 2018 without seeing this Cannes Lions-winning ad. The fact it is still being talked about (particularly as media journalists assemble their best ads of the year) is testament to both the power of a simple message and the weight print has in delivering impact.

This ad is proof that, in a world of information overload, putting something down on paper can garner huge attention — both on and offline.

Channel 4 capitalised on the popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale
Channel 4 capitalised on the popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale

Channel 4

It’s probably fair to say season two of The Handmaid’s Tale was among the most hotly anticipated television releases of 2018 — something Channel 4 maximised via a brilliant Metro cover wrap.

What better way to stop commuters in their tracks than printing a hugely inflammatory message on the front of the morning newspaper? By adopting the voice of Gilead and proclaiming “Women are not allowed to read this paper. Reading confuses the female mind,” the ad shocked, intrigued, and ultimately drove conversation. The fact it coincided with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements made the ad all the more relevant.

Cancer Research UK took over popular pages to capture attention.
Cancer Research UK took over popular pages to capture attention.

Cancer Research UK

By embarking on a month-long editorial partnership with Reach Solutions (then Trinity Mirror), Cancer Research UK ensured its “good news” campaign grabbed headlines.

Activity included a full-page editor’s letter by Lloyd Embley, which launched the initiative, and takeovers of regular pages, such as “Dr. Miriam Stoppard” and “Dear Coleen.” Using the Mirror’s first-party data analysis tool to identify good news stories surging on the homepage and socially meant that CRUK’s content could be placed at the heart of them — generating 3.9 million pageviews.

The work is a first-class example of how collaboration among advertisers, publishers, and agencies can result in tailoured, relevant campaigns for readers.

Movember

To re-engage people, men’s health foundation Movember partnered with News UK and Sky for a complex content partnership, centred on the idea of “FOMOVEMBER” — a life you’d miss out on if you died too young.

With such a powerful message, activity harnessed news brands’ editorial expertise and cross-platform formats to put the charity front and centre in people’s minds. The collaboration led to a 16% increase in fundraising, 67% rise in new sign-ups, and 50% leap in people’s understanding that Movember encourages men to take better care of their health.

These campaigns show what can be achieved when brands use the impact of print to tap into topical discourse or capitalise on news brands’ storytelling abilities to set the new agenda. You can read more about the entries in Newsworks’ gallery of Planning Award winners.