5 Timeless Print Ads & Modern Marketing Takeaways

When you talk about advertising today, you probably think of a social media campaign or a video ad. However, don’t underestimate the enduring power of print ads. As screens dominate our lives, the tangibility that print ads bring with them holds a unique charm. They offer a real-world connection in a world where everything is virtual. 

Print ads haven’t just survived, they’ve evolved. From humble beginnings in newspapers and magazines, they’ve expanded to billboards, vehicle wraps, and targeted direct mail campaigns like postcards. And the best part is that they remain relevant even today. Even in our digital world, print ads have the power to capture attention and leave a lasting impression.

That’s why incorporating a robust print strategy into your marketing mix is still crucial for many brands. Looking for inspiration? You’ve come to the right place!

This blog delves into some of the most creative print ads from renowned brands. We’ll also explore how these brands integrate print with other marketing channels, showcasing how they’ve adapted to the ever-changing marketing landscape.

But before we dive in, let’s address the elephant in the room: Are print ads truly important? 

Why Print Ads Still Matter!

  • Tangible assets help brands cut through the noise. Data shows that the print ads market which was valued at $30.43 billion in 2023 is projected to grow to $31.7 billion. So, yes, brands are still investing in print ads. 
  • About 73% of consumers prefer receiving direct communication from brands in the form of business postcards etc. This is good news considering the ad fatigue in today’s digital era that drives consumers to hate intrusive advertising from brands. 
  • Print ads are pretty good conversion drivers. Studies show that when it comes to making purchase decisions print ads are still the most trusted formats in comparison with digital ads for about 82% of consumers. Because there is a level of authenticity that print ads carry. Considering the increasing number of digital ad frauds in recent times, the credibility that print advertising comes with can be a benefit to brands. 
  • Businesses strive to boost the response rate for their ads. And print ads are known to have about a 9% response rate which is a good number considering that it is just around 1% for most digital marketing channels. 
  • Looking to maximize the impact of your marketing efforts? Then here’s a quick fact for you. Combining digital and print ads is said to boost the effectiveness of a campaign by about 400%. Because an omnichannel approach amplifies your message and boosts audience engagement. 
  • Most digital ads only appear for a fleeting few seconds and several of these can be skipped or closed and forgotten. On the other hand, print ads are known for their longevity. Some studies show that customers might hold on to print ads for about 17 days

Looking to tap into these potential benefits of print advertising? Here are some iconic ads to inspire you. 

Learning From The Print Ads From Famous Brands 

1. Land Rover’s Passport 

Published in 2011 in the UK, this print ad from Land Rover is all about using symbolic and metaphorical representations to wow your audience. In addition to receiving a positive response when published, the ad also recently resurfaced and gained quite a lot of popularity on Reddit and other internet forums. 

What’s special about the design here? Instead of featuring the actual car as with most car ads, this one just features the silhouette of the car (Land Rover Defender) featuring multiple stamp impressions as on a passport page. The design delivers a strong message without using a single word. It makes you visualize The Defender as a car that takes you places! The design helps connect the idea of travel with the promoted car thus delivering the message memorably and impactfully. 

Well, that was about Land Rover’s success with respect to print ads. But the brand has also proven to be a champion in advertising through other platforms. Their experience marketing game, for example, is spot on! Take the Test Drive Billboard campaign that the brand launched a few years after the Passport campaign. 

This one was no ordinary billboard ad – it was the kind of ad that took the product to the customer, literally! For this campaign, Land Rover put up billboards with actual test drive vehicles at various locations and customers could take a test drive straight from the billboard. Reportedly, this campaign brought in 5 times more test drives! 

Both these campaigns show how the brand balances visually delightful print ads and customer-focused experiential campaigns to create a well-rounded marketing strategy! 

2. KFC’s Hot & Spicy ads 

In 2018, KFC launched a series of print ads with their spicy fried chicken replacing the flames in various scenes. This campaign won several awards for its simplicity and clear delivery of message. The above image shows a spin-off that the brand created to celebrate the finale of the popular show Game of Thrones. 

This has made it to our list of iconic print ads for 2 reasons:

  • One is the seamless visual manipulation used in the design which makes this a visually engaging ad. 
  • Second is the effective use of moment marketing as the brand chose to celebrate the one show that most of its audiences were raving about. 

That shows that for a print ad to be a hit, contextual relevance can be your secret ingredient! 

KFC is one of those brands that have mastered not just their print ads but also the latest trends in advertising like 3D billboards. The below video shows one such 3D billboard from the brand that was placed at Wellington Airport. Creative ads like this one sure can cheer the folks waiting at an airport lounge and encourage them to grab a bite at a KFC outlet near them. 

KFC’s diversity in advertising shows how important it is for brands to keep up with the emerging trends in advertising. It reminds us that despite the effectiveness of print ads, it’s equally important to accommodate other platforms, especially for targeted advertising. 

3. IKEA’s “Tomorrow Starts Tonight”

At first, these ads look like they feature everyday items like anti-aging creams, energy drinks, and vitamin supplements. But look closely and you’ll see IKEA’s brilliance in design. Designed both for outdoor advertising and print ads, these designs were curated for the audience in Ireland and the UK. 

So, what made this one of the most awe-inspiring print ads? 

  • The clear definition of the theme- for a brand like IKEA with a broad portfolio, the ideas are endless and the target audience can be pretty scattered. Therefore, the key is to define a single focused message or a theme – (sleep, in this case). 
  • Simplicity is a big strength in advertising, especially with print designs where people do not have the option to click on links and read more. By creating eye-catching parody versions of popular sleep-related products IKEA simplified the message here. 
  • In addition to all these, you’ll also notice that the overall design aesthetic is aligned with IKEA’s branding, remaining clean and impactful. 

Like the other brands we discussed so far, IKEA also has a way of elevating the impact their print ads create. And this is through their creative ambient advertising efforts. Like the below campaign, IKEA executed in Toronto for example. For this one, creatively created showroom displays on actual homes. 

You think it’s just an ordinary billboard on a building but then as you pass, you notice the lights turn on and people walking around – wouldn’t you be intrigued? That’s exactly what IKEA did. This was to represent the increasing cost of living in Toronto while promoting their downtown store created for small spaces. 

4. LEGO’s What It Is Is Beautiful 

This is one of the oldest print ads that people still talk about and it’s from LEGO. This ad is decades old and still stands as a testimony to LEGO’s clear brand values and strong brand messaging. 

The ad featured a child proudly holding her LEGO creation with a smile on her face. The overall theme and the emotional depth in the ad communicate the sense of achievement that LEGO blocks are designed to deliver to the little ones. The ad with its inspirational copy also captures the pleasure of creation that LEGO blocks bring with them. 

As for the design of this print ad, the wise of use negative space around the child ensures that the whole focus is on her. And the thoughtful visual balance creates a sense of harmony making the ad aesthetically appealing. 

The emotional value of this ad is what made it so popular back then. And to add more meaning to this ad and to leverage its popularity, the brand recreated it almost 40 years after it was first published. And this time it was to celebrate International Women’s Day. 

For the recreated version, the brand leveraged digital channels including their website and social media so as to create an omnichannel experience. This shows the power of nostalgic recreations in marketing and how you can add a modern twist to a vintage concept or design that worked for your brand. 

Need help recreating your old ad designs with a contemporary twist? Get KIMP

5. Sharpie’s “It All Started with a Sharpie” 

Looking for lessons in simplicity? Then this is one of the best print ads to inspire you. Raw sketches on a crumpled piece of paper – what better way to depict the brand and what it stands for? This ad focuses on creativity depicting how some of the most iconic logos of today started out as simple sketches probably made with a sharpie. It shows how a seemingly simple marker could be a starting point for anything imaginable.

The idea here is brilliant because it effortlessly connects the brand to “creativity”. Linking your brand with a specific concept like “creativity” in this case, instantly creates a clear and memorable image in the minds of consumers. They know what to expect from your brand and how it can potentially benefit them.

In addition to creating such powerful print ads, the brand has also been known to be a master in the social media game. The below post, for example, shows Sharpie’s “The World Is Your Canvas” campaign that encourages the expression of creativity and also garners an ample amount of user-generated content. 

The brand also partners with influencers and relevant brands and people to reiterate their message. The below post features Alexis Ohanian Sr., co-founder of Reddit talking about the Sharpie S Gel pen. Posts like these establish the brand’s reach and again emphasize their core message of nurturing creativity. 

Design Picture-Perfect Print Ads With KIMP

From the nostalgic print campaigns and the evolving print marketing strategies of these popular brands, it’s clear that successful print ads are a blend of clear branding, stunning visuals, and strong storytelling. To make all these come to life, you also need to leverage typography, colors, and other visual elements like illustrations aptly. That’s where a professional design team can make a difference. 

And if this professional design team is part of an unlimited design service, you also get unlimited designs and unlimited revisions at a flat monthly fee. This way, you can experiment with various print ad designs and achieve consistency when creating omnichannel campaigns. Ready to experience that for your brand? Sign up for a KIMP subscription today. Register now for a free 7-day trial!