Innovation in action – blending print and digital to optimise the experience

Creating experiential content for consumers

Old Spice scented paper blazer

Many brands are seeing an opportunity to innovate by adding a digital element to their print offering. In the advertising space in particular a number of brands have created ‘experiential content’ for their audiences by combining the two. Here, we explore some examples.

Audi drives innovation in print ad

Departures, a magazine published by Meredith Corporation exclusively for American Express Platinum Card Members, revealed a new print ad that animated organic light-emitting diode (OLED) taillights on the Audi A8 in the ad when the page was opened for the first time or triggered by a remote control replica key fob.

The interactive in-book experience was a brand first, according to Giulio Capua, vice president and publisher of Departures.

“When Audi approached Departures to partner on the launch of the A8, we knew we would have to create something truly innovative, show-stopping, and ‘never been done before,’” he said at launch. “This project underscores the power of print and speaks to the type of unique luxury experiences Departures offers its incredibly affluent, discerning readership.”

The print and digital mix was the first print ad execution of its kind for Departures. Readers were provided with a replica Audi key fob that, when pressed, animated the taillights when the page was opened. The exclusive print advertisement was distributed to 25,000 targeted Departures readers.

“The Audi A8 marks a next generation for Audi lighting design, which is why we wanted a thoughtful and tech-forward approach to our print advertising,” said Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing for Audi of America.

“The ad is more than a stunning visual- it’s a limited-edition experience that will intrigue readers and Audi fans. We wanted to create something so impactful that it would naturally get those readers’ attention.”

The technology for the ad was created by Structural Graphics, a print marketing firm based in Connecticut. A microprocessor and a record-breaking number of LEDs mimic the Audi’s lighting. The company also produced the remote control key fob that Departures readers used to trigger the display lights. The technology used to produce the insert was paired with art from Audi’s brand and creative agency, Venables Bell, to reinforce the elegant exterior styling of the all-new Audi A8. Departures is published seven times a year and has a circulation of 1.5 million.

Empire magazine gets movie-goers talking

Bauer Media’s Empire magazine pushed the boundaries of print publishing last year by producing an innovative limited-edition talking cover.

The cover was created in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox to coincide with the launch of movie Deadpool 2. A concealed speaker inside the publication is activated by a button which, when pressed and spoken to, offers one of 14 recorded replies to questions from the enigmatic Deadpool himself.

Bauer printed 3,200 issues of the special issue, which were made available through readers from Tesco and WHSmith Travel, and online at These limited edition copies were produced alongside the regular newsstand issue of Empire.

This cover innovation was the latest in a series of special issues from Empire, which have included a video cover for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2016, and the virtual reality magazine for Alien: Covenant in 2017.

The cover image featured was a world exclusive. Inside the pages, readers could look forward to an exclusive film making feature by Chris Hewitt, including interviews with stars Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin, director David Leitch, writers/producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and producer Simon Kinberg.

The exclusive subscriber pre-sale opened on the same day the film hit screens, with general pre-sale the following day. The magazine was then made available in stores on the day after that.

“Deadpool 2 was the film of the summer, pushing pretty much every boundary going, so it was the perfect movie for us to partner with on our latest limited-edition, exclusive magazine. Voice-responsive technology is right at the cutting edge, so we were determined to find a way to incorporate it into the magazine in yet another world-first,” Terri White, editor-in-chief of Empire, explained.

New move from Old Spice

Aftershave brand Old Spice has a reputation for charming, and unconventional ads. Last year, it took the company’s reputation to a new level – they provided readers with a stunning, bright red scented paper jacket that could be removed from the magazine and literally worn.

Fragrance advertisers have long used scent strips in advertisements, so innovating with paper is nothing new to the sector; but Old Spice decided to take that to the next level with the inclusion of the jacket in the March 2018 issue of GQ. The full sized disposable paper blazer was scented with Old Spice Captain and inserted into a pocket in the ad.

Ad Week called the jacket a “ludicrous item” but couldn’t help noting that, “with this paper blazer, everyone gets to live the luxurious life of Old Spice Captain. Smell the smells, live the life, but don’t go out in the rain – because you will likely get yourself papier machéd.”

Taking the beach to the people

The Dominican Republic gets 5.5 million tourists a year, but almost all of them go to the same three beaches – Punta Cana, Bávaro and La Romana. The country wanted to attract visitors to the 197 other stunning beaches it has and to the bustling communities around those beaches to promote economic development.

Remarkably, each of these 200 beaches have their own signature sand – different in color and texture. And, with millions of tourists at the three main beaches, the other beaches offer unspoiled, quiet, peaceful sand and blue water.

Over a six-month period, the agency McCann Santo Domingo collected sand and water from each beach and created a geo-located print catalog which covered every beach – each with its unique color signature of sand and water included. Potential visitors could now see and feel the rich variety of beach experiences available to them. Printed catalogs were distributed around the world to Dominican consulates and tourism fair organizers while a virtual version was put together where readers could request a hard copy of the catalog with all the sand samples.

Jon Watkins

Courtesy – FIPP


The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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