When planning newsbrands, the format options are vast. Across print and digital platforms, there are those that we tend to see every day, include double page spreads; full page colour advertisements; half page strips and page dominant ads. However, there are also a wide variety of more innovative formats, which deliver more impact and standout such as cover-wraps; consecutive pages; cascades; fireplaces and editorially integrated ads. The list could go on and the above only covers print newsbrands. The reality is that the only real constraints for planners when making decisions about formats is imagination (and maybe the will of the creative agency).

Innovative formats increase attention

It’s worth noting that Lumen eye tracking technology highlights that print ads employing ‘special’ formats draw higher levels of attention in print newsbrands vs more standard formats. Being in-line with editorial can lead to greater attention and dwell time, while significant uplifts in attention are also evident for innovative formats in other contexts (disruptive ads, ‘Battenberg 17x7s’, etc), which tend to outperform full page ads.

When it comes to digital newsbrand platforms, Lumen’s eye tracking study, ‘Paying (for) Attention’, highlights the impact of site design, number of ads, available formats and relevant content on attention. This helps to explain why digital newsbrands deliver 80% more viewable impressions actually seen than non-newsbrand sites. There is a plethora of formats for planners to choose from in the digital space, each of which offer a different experience for the reader to engage with. These include rich, dynamic ads which can be optimised across mobile, tablet and desktop, including homepage takeovers, video formats, leader boards, sky scrapers, MPUs, double MPUs and native advertising, to name but a few. In addition, immersive digital ads draw on the senses and create a truly engaging, interactive experience, such as Canon’s ‘Touch to See’ campaign on newsbrands’ tablet editions.

Power of touch

While we’re on the subject of touch, it’s worth noting some key findings from Newsworks’ ‘Touching is believing’ study, conducted in partnership with PHD and UCL. This piece of research investigated the power of touch on newsbrands’ print and tablet advertising, the impact of different creative formats and why this matters to advertisers in an increasingly virtual world.

Results showed that touching ads, whether in a newspaper or on a tablet edition, improves brand perceptions and increases purchase consideration. More specifically:

  • The touchable format of newspapers and tablets increases reader confidence, satisfaction, reliability and trust in advertised brands which results in an increased willingness to try, purchase and recommend the brands to others
  • Life-size pictures in tablet ads convey tangibility and trigger more interaction and a stronger response across all brand measures. Spontaneous awareness is 33% higher than for a non-touch platform, perceptions that the brand is high quality go up by 16% and purchase intent increases by 25%
  • Creative that encourages people to touch a print ad produces even stronger brand impressions. Touching print ads increases people’s belief that an brand is honest and sincere by 41%, quality perceptions by 20% and purchase intent by 24%

The implication for brands and agencies is that touch is a vital sense – it creates tangibility for messages while at the same time being a catalyst for emotional connections. The Canon, ‘Touch to See’ case study is a great example which demonstrates that the power of touch should not be underestimated.

Case study: Canon ‘Touch to See’

PHD utilised findings from its research project with UCL and Newsworks (Touching is believing), which specifically looked at the effect of touch on newspaper and tablet advertising and the impact of different creative, to drive unprecedented levels of engagement and Christmas sales for Canon.

Canon identified a housing estate in Essex, where deer regularly appeared during the night, as the ideal scenario to demonstrate its low light camera technology. By allowing readers to wipe the grainy top layer of a tablet ad to reveal the urban deer imagery – functionality never before used in the category – the campaign demonstrated what can be achieved with a Canon camera.

The campaign delivered an average engagement rate of 67%, 33x higher than the industry benchmarks for dynamic display on tablets and Canon hit their sales target; outselling all of their competitors at Christmas and demonstrating how utilising touch in tablet advertising can result in an effective and original solution.



But, the big question is, does size matter? Is bigger better?

We’ve always known, always had a gut-feeling about the answer to this question – but now we have proof. Using the RAMetrics database, we examined the effectiveness of ad sizes in successfully driving recall, attention/recognition, engagement and action measures.

Larger ads are certainly noticed more, with 66% of readers recalling full page ads (vs 56% for half page ads and 52% for quarter page ads). Indeed, on almost every metric you will get significantly better results from full page ads compared with their smaller counterparts.

Recall full page ads
Recall half page ads
Recall quarter page ads
  • Full page ads are given more attention (26% of readers paid close attention compared with 19% for half page ads and 17% for quarter page ads)
  • They are more appealing (30% of readers found them personally appealing versus 21% for half page and 19% for quarter page ads)
  • They’re easier to understand (46% found full page ads very easy to understand, but only 41% felt the same about half page ads and just 35% for quarter page ad)
  • They prompt action (25% of readers would recommend the company/product, whereas half page ads and quarter page ads both scored 15%)

These findings are corroborated by Lumen eye tracking research. Lumen tracks what people are actually looking at when consuming media, how long they spend on pages and dwell time for ads. They have found that full page ads are viewed by 92% of people on average whereas half page ads are viewed by 81% of people. Dwell times are also higher – with average dwell times of 3.3 seconds versus 2.2 seconds respectively.

So, does size matter? It does to an extent. As well as looking at average scores, we can also look at the highest and lowest scores for each size. The highest performing full-page ad achieves higher recall (89%) than the best-performing half page (81%) and quarter page ad (73%), but with a narrower margin than seen with the average. The lowest performing full-page ad scores 10% points higher on recall than its half page equivalent.

The strength of the creative has a major part to play too. A great idea in a small space can easily out-perform a weaker idea in a big space. The highest performing half page ad is recalled by 81% of readers – well above both the 54% average for an ad of its size and the 70% average for full page executions. We can also eliminate category as a predeterminant of creative success. There’s a mix of industries making up the top and bottom of the lists and for half page ads both the top and bottom ads were for supermarkets.

Previous ad testing by Newsworks has shown that the best way to make the most of smaller spaces is to design the ads to fit the space. This sounds pretty simple, but there are many examples where artwork has been “shrunk to fit” so everything is hard to see, or where so much has been crammed in that the ad is confusing or looks like too much hard work.

The RAMetrics results give us confirmation on what we’ve always known instinctively – now we have proof. Bigger is indeed better. Size does matter but the importance of creativity should not be ignored.


And while we’re thinking about format, what about left hand vs right hand? Who wins?

It has been a long-held belief, partly derived from 1980’s reading and noting studies for magazines in the US, that right hand pages of newspapers are premium sites. JWT research challenged this belief as long ago as December 1996 – at least for tabloid newspapers – but still it persists.

A quick Google will find a considerable list of business books and media consultants who proclaim the superiority of the right-hand page. The theories are somewhat conflicting, with some arguing that, as we read from left to right, the right must be dominant, while others assert that the right is preferable because we read right hand pages firs

t. Much of this theorising appears to be based on personal newspaper reading habits, however, rather than science.

Eye-tracking provides more objective evidence. As early as 1991, a Poynter US study indicated that people looked at a spread as a whole, but images drew attention – so if there is a particularly dominant image in either the editorial of the newspaper or in the ad, that could affect which element grabbed most attention.

Lumen in the UK have used eye-tracking to analyse almost 3,500 newspaper ads since 2013. Their analysis shows that the natural gaze path for readers is to start in the middle, then scan to the right and back across. This means that ads in the lower left position are seen somewhat less. Newspapers are shown on digital screens, however, so will not account for things that people do with their physical paper, such as folding so only one page is visible at a time, or reading from back to front.

The Lumen data for digitised newspapers shows a viewing bias towards the right-hand page of a spread of 58% vs 42% for the left page, partly due to the fact that there are more ads on left-hand pages – and readers are, after all, reading the newspaper primarily for its editorial content. Ads also achieve higher standout on the right-hand page, though the difference is relatively small:

  • Full page ads: 94% look when placed on the right page, 89% look at left page ads
  • There’s a 3-4 percentage point difference for standout of 17×7 (77% right, 73% left) and 25×4 ads (74% left, 77% right)
  • The biggest difference is for 10×7 ads – 60% standout on left, 68% on right


Look at ads on left hand pages
Look at ads on right hand pages

However, the dwell time for ads is not affected by whether they are placed on left or right pages, according to Lumen.

Analysis of the RAMetrics database shows that creative strength has a HUGE influence on ad recall and how people respond to advertising. Any impact of ad position is vastly outweighed by the effect of creative – and to a lesser extent, ad category. For example, the highest number of readers recalling a left-hand page ad is 82%, the lowest 54%. Both of these are holiday/travel ads so any category impact is accounted for.

Indeed, the main finding from RAMetrics is that it really doesn’t seem to matter a jot whether an ad is on the right or left-hand page of a newspaper.


Ads on right-hand pages are slightly better recalled – but when ad size is taken into account there is no difference:

  • 71% of readers recall ads on the right compared with 64% for left-hand pages
  • Full pages: 65% recall on left, 67% recall on right
  • Half pages: 56% recall on left, 57% on right
  • Quarter pages: 46% recall on left, 61% on right


There are marginal differences on all other measures:

  • There is no clear evidence that right hand pages are premium pages for advertising.
  • If anything, ads on left-hand pages tend to outscore on most measures by a few points


So, we know that more people might look at ads on right-hand pages, and more might recall seeing them, but a great ad on a left-hand page will always out perform a lacklustre ad on the right.

Format selection

With such a huge array of options, deciding which newsbrand formats to opt for can be a difficult choice. However, the starting point should always be to refer back to the campaign objectives and the media strategy that you are looking to execute. Newsbrands can play various roles within the media landscape and can work effectively to address a number of different objectives, each demanding a different approach to format. We’ve provided a few examples here to show you how other advertisers and brands have addressed the challenge of determining format:

Case study: Paddy Power, ‘Rainbow Laces’

Strategy: Creating fame and building stature through a Metro takeover

Paddy Power and the charity Stonewall joined forces to tackle homophobia in football via a ‘Rainbow Laces’ takeover of Metro. With 70% of football fans who’ve attended a match having heard or witnessed homophobia, the challenge was to raise awareness and create a positive change via a campaign focused on fame and building stature. In this instance, newsbrands played a central role in creating a sense of importance around the mission that Paddy Power and Stonewall were focused on, commanding attention of the audience.

With every professional footballer in the UK having been sent a pair of Rainbow Laces and asked to lace up in support, Metro provided the ideal platform for brands to follow suit. The special edition included specially created ads from over 50 different brands, as well as regular ads sporting the Rainbow Laces logo. Metro also changed its masthead to reference the campaign. This was the first time that Metro dedicated a whole edition of the paper to one campaign. Formats included bespoke print ads, a customised masthead, full page spread, half page, 10 x 7 and a sponsored weather takeover.

Case study: Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night

Strategy: Prompting action through contextual placement of strip ads, full page spread, half page DPS and high impact HPTOs

 The General Election is an event that brings together the entire nation. For days, weeks and months, media coverage is dominated by the election and election night is always a special event. To make the 2015 election the most memorable for Brits, Channel 4 had an ambitious plan: host an event that would give people across the UK a fun and unique experience.

Newsbrands were central to the task of driving viewers on just one day, 7 May. The combination of print and digital executions delivered the audience in a relevant and targeted environment, while contextually placing ads within election editorial emphasised Channel 4’s news credentials.

Case study: John Lewis – Sending the nation to sleep

Strategy: Educating consumers about the importance of sleep and demonstrating expertise in sleep through a multi-platform, multi-format partnership with the Guardian

In AW14 John Lewis wanted to own sleep, providing everything needed to create the perfect sleep sanctuary.

Mindful that newsbrands are well placed to help readers to stay well informed about what’s going on in the nation and the wider world across a broad range of subject matters and provide a great sense of educational value, John Lewis partnered with the Guardian.

The campaign’s aims were threefold – educating consumers about the importance of sleep for wellbeing, driving awareness of the breadth of products that John Lewis offer, and demonstrating John Lewis’ expertise when it comes to sleep.

The core of the partnership ­– a series of podcasts to help achieve a great sleep – was a Guardian media first. The series, ‘Going, going, gone’, featured original bedtime stories from writers such as Will Self and Chika Unigwe, and a score to help listeners drift off peacefully.

Supporting activity included an eight-page feature in the title’s ‘Weekend’ magazine to inspire readers to invest in their bedrooms, weekly ‘full page’ sleep profiles in ‘Weekend’, a variety of sleep tips in G2 magazine and an online commercial hub hosting a competition.

Case Study: Boots Health Hero

Strategy: Building trust and consolidating reputation for Boots prescription service via an editorial content partnership

In the current climate of scepticism around the NHS and healthcare, the pride that the public once felt for the individuals and establishments delivering healthcare has eroded.

As a result, Boots were challenged with the task of consolidating the reputation of their prescription service. They looked to newsbrands as a credible way to build their trust credentials due to the unique, trusted relationship that newsbrands have with their readers. Partnering with the Daily Mail, Boots ran a campaign to rally the nation and promote the Health Hero Awards. Raising the public’s consciousness of quality healthcare and reframing Boots as the only local retailer to trust with prescriptions, the campaign needed a platform that would elevate the importance of Boots’ staff knowledge, range and community spirit; assets supermarkets simply can’t match.

The campaign featured a range of formats including a full page splash, an exclusive column written by the Prime Minister, two months of continual editorial coverage, along with twelve articles written and published in both the Daily Mail and MailOnline.

28% of DM readers recalled Health Heroes, rising to 63% prompted recall with editorial and prescription registrations had an unprecedented 67% uplift during the campaign.

Case study: Horsemeat: National Crisis Averted

Strategy: Protecting the long-term health of Tesco’s reputation by raising the issue in a credible, newsworthy environment

A bold media strategy, with newspapers at its heart, allowed Tesco to regain the trust of millions of customers.

At the start of 2013, a story hit the news and dominated the headlines for weeks on end: horsemeat had been found in Tesco burgers. It was a story that had the potential to cause significant damage to the UK’s biggest retailer, unless handled with extreme care.

With news of the ‘horsemeat scandal’ spreading, Tesco had no time to waste. Unless the supermarket responded immediately, the long-term health of the business would be at risk. Media would be crucial in guiding that response. Given that newspapers are renowned for raising the issues that matter (and were the medium fuelling the horsemeat story and inciting the public debate), they were at the heart of Tesco’s strategy. With a bold and honest approach, and an ‘always-on’ mentality, the company used newspaper advertising to issue a sincere apology, position Tesco as a thought leader and restore customers’ faith.

Long-copy, full-page colour ad formats were executed across The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, The Independent, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and Daily Express to communicate a complex and detailed message in an impactful way.

In the week following 17 January, Tesco saw a dramatic drop in convenience food sales. However, this could have been the precursor to a much bigger problem for the retailer. As it was, two months on, overall footfall and sales were back in line with previous forecasts, suggesting that disaster was well and truly averted.

The press coverage that Tesco achieved at each stage of the campaign showed that the public was noticing and reacting – in a positive way. Research shows that customers thought Tesco dealt with the crisis better than its competitors and Tesco newspaper ads were considered ‘easy to understand’, ‘informative’ and ‘credible’, while half of the customers Tesco spoke to said it had ‘addressed their concerns’.

Case study: Ben & Jerry’s ‘Too Hot to Handle’ climate change campaign

Strategy: Harnessing the power of newsbrands to shift attitudes on climate change

 Ben & Jerry’s is a brand that cares deeply about the planet and has a long history of championing social justice. It’s no surprise therefore that the brand is often finding ways to reduce the environmental impact of its business across the world. Being a core strategic pillar for the brand, Ben & Jerry’s actively support their fight for climate change through marketing investment. The challenge in 2015 was how to reach those who haven’t previously engaged with the topic of climate in a compelling and engaging way; changing the way that people think about this critical issue.

Newsbrands offer an effective environment in which to communicate brand messages that aim to shift people’s attitudes and change minds. It was for this reason that Ben & Jerry’s partnered with the Guardian to launch a multimedia series on climate change; to raise awareness, drive the public conversation, create debate and generate action. It was also the intention to encourage readers to take a lighter look at the dark problem of climate change by making them laugh.

Launching in June 2015 and running through to December, the ‘Too Hot to Handle’ activity used classic comedic techniques such as parody public service announcements, satirical articles and Saturday Night Live-style content, across short-form video as well as opinion pieces. As a result, the campaign created shareable environmental content to grow the mainstream conversation about climate change. New content was posted weekly across the campaign period.

So, there is lots to think about when considering newsbrand formats. For more examples of how different formats can be woven into newsbrand campaigns, head to the ‘Creative’ section of the Newsworks website where you will find a myriad of different case studies, each showing the power of newsbrands in meeting brand and business objectives.



Lumen ‘Pay(ing) For Attention’

Newsworks ‘Touching is Believing’