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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: More Uses for Interactive Print

As I looked through NewPage’s This Is Ed, #15 Interactive Print, again after writing the last PIE Blog posting, I noticed two more stellar examples of print ads combining ink on paper with digital technology.

I also found a related article and video showing a Veja Rio (a Brazilian magazine) print ad that actually includes a solar cell, allowing users to charge their cell phones while on the beach.

Here’s a rundown of the three convergent media campaigns and their relevance to print.

Australian Wine Maker Yellow Tail Combines LED Technology and Offset Custom Printing

NewPage describes a novel use for LED lights (light emitting diodes) in its description of an Australian wine maker’s ad for its Yellow Tail brand. Apparently the company ran an ad in 600,000 copies of Real Simple magazine including LED lights inserted behind fireflies printed in the ad.

These lights not only mimic the behavior of an actual fireflies, but they also stop the reader cold. After all, who would expect lighting effects in a print ad? LED technology provides two benefits in this case, according to This Is Ed, #15 Interactive Print. The lights can be programmed to change color and/or fade in and out, and they’re also an inexpensive add-on, costing only 10 to 15 cents per unit.

If it hasn’t been done before, a marketing technique will grab and delight the reader. I think three elements of this ad make it memorable:

    1. The light behaves exactly like a firefly.


    1. The intimacy of a print ad (reading is usually a quiet, personal experience) makes the interactive experience more surprising.


  1. The expectation that print is always a static medium makes this a one-of-a-kind experience.

And moreover, the print ad was an essential element of this campaign. Flickering firefly lights in a digital ad would have been far less surprising.

RSA Combines SMS Technology and Offset Custom Printing in Auto Insurance Ad

This Is Ed, #15 Interactive Print also includes a description of an RSA ad for an insurance quote.

Since digital equipment has shrunk over the years, RSA was able to include an illustration of a smartphone with an actual working keypad. The device uses SMS technology to allow the reader to contact RSA directly (and instantly) for an automobile insurance estimate. If you type in your mobile phone number and auto license plate number, you will receive an auto insurance estimate via text message shortly thereafter.

NewPage does note that this technology is expensive, ranging from over $20.00 per unit to over $50.00 per unit. Fortunately, the device can be used by a number of the reader’s friends to get multiple estimates for insurance, thus defraying the unit cost by spreading it over a number of prospective clients.

NewPage included both of these ads (for Yellow Tail and RSA) in a section labeled “The Gateway.” I think this is a particularly apt name, since in both cases the print ad launches the reader through a static printed facade into the realm of movement. And in both cases, the gateway of print is essential to the complete experience. The tactile and personal nature of print over digital-only brings the reader from a quiet, personal experience into a more dynamic, interactive realm.

Nivea Sunscreen Ad Combines a Solar Panel and Offset Custom Printing

I saw an incredibly cool Nivea ad in a YouTube video and read about it in two magazine articles (noted below, if you’d like to check them out):

(MailOnline, 6/4/13, “Magazine ad for sunscreen features solar-powered USB insert so beach-goers can charge their cell phones in the sun,” by Margot Peppers; and Adweek, 5/30/13, “Solar Panel Inside Nivea Print Ad Generates Power to Charge Your Cellphone,” by David Gianatasio)

The ad agency Giovanni + Draftfcb included a thin solar panel and requisite plugs and wires to allow the reader of the Nivea ad in the Brazilian magazine Veja Rio to charge her or his cell phone while basking in the sun on the beach. It promotes Nivea Sun skincare products. But it does far more than this.

First of all, not everyone has access to an alternate power source to recharge a cell phone on the beach. The print ad provides the tool: the solar panel. In this way, the ad underscores the importance of print advertising over digital-only advertising.

In addition, this ad sets the bar higher for interactive media. As Giantasio’s article, “Solar Panel Inside Nivea Print Ad Generates Power to Charge Your Cellphone,” suggests, “adding novel functionality to traditional campaigns could be a smart way to stir things up.” If it’s all about “stopping power,” then the movement of print advertising into the realm of interactive media could make commercial printing both relevant and unique.

Granted, this technology is expensive and time consuming to produce. According to Margot Peppers’ article, “Magazine ad for sunscreen features solar powered USB insert so beach-goers can charge their cell phones in the sun,” the “full-page advertisements apparently took eight months to produce, six months to develop the technology, and two months to print.”

Yes, but they just work. And marketing is an investment, not just an expense.

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