Gazet van Antwerpen – The Empty Newspaper

Since the economic crisis of 2009, more and more readers cancelled their newspaper subscriptions. Our mission: convince them to renew their subscriptions, using a direct mailing. Preferably by playing on the emotional bond and the interactive relationship between the reader and their regional newspaper. After all: it’s the local readers who make the news. In other words: we need them not only as a subscriber, but equally as a source for most of the content in Gazet van Antwerpen (paper for the province Antwerp) and Het Belang van Limburg (paper for the province Limburg).

So why not show them the direct result of their decision? We mailed the readers a copy of their local newspaper that was completely empty. The front page showed only the header, and had a hand-written personal message from the editor in chief on it: “Without you, it’s empty around here…” Inside, only the editorial was printed. The editor in chief looks back on the long and splendid relationship they had for months, often even years. He asks himself: where did it go wrong, what did I do wrong? He ends with a warm plea to make a new start.

The creative execution.
An emotional approach was successful as ex-subscribers do not respond to rational arguments (no time to read, too expensive). The empty paper was a good way to express the feelings of the editor in chief who felt it was pretty empty without the reader. Besides, the empty paper was a nice way to say the reader had to miss a bunch of news every day.

The results
In the past, an administrative approach generated a response rate of maximum 3%. The emotional approach of the empty newspaper resulted in a double digit response. Overall, 11,67% of the lapsed subscribers decided to renew. As a extra benefit, this approach was pretty ecological. We used blank newspapers that were not (for quality reasons) being used for printing newspapers. So no extra trees where cut down to make this direct mail.

Advertising Agency: Proximity BBDO, Brussels
Year: 2011



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