10 wild and crazy ad promotions

September 10, 2013


ears ago, when he was guest-hosting on the TV show “Saturday Night Live,” Steve Martin would often refer to himself as a “wild and crazy guy” along with his cohort in comedy, Dan Aykroyd.

For more years than I can remember, David Letterman has built his TV career around the nightly presentation of his always humorous but sometimes absurd Top Ten list.

For this revenue ideas edition of Publishers’ Auxiliary I’m combining those two highly successful themes to present 10 off-the-wall newspaper promotions so silly and outrageous they actually work—not just once, but time and time again.


The Funny Money Bunny

This is perfect for the weekend before Easter and starts with renting or buying a human-size Easter Bunny costume. Next, sell local businesses dollar-size coupons printed on festive spring colored paper for Mr. Bunny to give to everyone he meets while strolling the streets of your community.

Sell local clothing, grocery, variety and other businesses more than one coupon by offering the second and third at reduced cost—$49.95 for the first, $34.95 for the second, $19.95 for the third, for example. Make sure the Bunny also has some candy to hand out to the children. Promote Mr. Bunny with a magazine-size or full-page ad in your newspaper listing the names of the participating businesses and some of the exceptional coupon offers. Be sure to also invite area parents to take their children’s pictures with the Funny Money Bunny.


Annual Red Tag Sale

Promote a community-wide sales event by walking unannounced into select advertisers with handfuls of pre-printed cards with your community’s name and the words Red Tag Sale. Leave plenty of space for the customer to list specific items and prices on each card. You’ll get immediate, positive attention by telling the merchant “I brought you your Red Tag Sale cards.”

Explain you’re running a city-wide Red Tag sale with all ads featuring the unique design printed on the free point-of-purchase cards. Sell the package modular so all the ads can fit on consecutive pages. The promotion works best in mid-January, early July and late October.


Multiple Brides & 

Bouquets sections

Every newspaper does an annual bridal section, but weddings take place every week of the year. Consider publishing five bridal sections each year.

Sell them with two-level pricing: charge one price if the client buys one to four of the sections and a greatly reduced price if the client contracts for all five.

For a fresh editorial approach, consider featuring interviews with local brides about the planning and celebration of their unique wedding. The best months for bridal sections are December, (before the annual wedding shows), February, May, July and September.


Class of 2025

Art Linkletter said it first: “Children say the darndest things.” This promotion features profiles, action photos and interviews with members of the community’s kindergarten class that will graduate in 12 years.

Topics can include favorite food, what cars will be like when they’re adults, what’s great about going to school and what they’re going to do when they grow up. The list of potential advertisers is endless.


Tornado Preparedness

Tornados are a real possibility, at least across the Midwest, and preparedness is everything. This one-page promotion, suitable for posting in every local home and business, features step-by-step information on exactly what to do before, during and after a tornado.

The helpful information, including art, is available free from the U.S. Weather Bureau. The revenue from this promotion comes from selling business-card size ads at the bottom of the page to local insurance firms, banks, health centers, utility firms and other community-minded businesses.


Annual Full-Page Sale

This is a great promotion for January when cash flow is slow. It also can be used to draw attention to your business anniversary. The process is simple: for one day only you sell full pages, black and white, spot color or process color, at half price. The ads can be run in any edition during the next 12 months, but must be paid in advance.

It is a win-win proposition. You get the cash up front and the power of additional full pages in your publication all year. We all know that ads encourage ads and the more discounted pages you publish the more regular priced full-page ads you’ll sell.


Men of N’West Iowa

Or your community or region. It’s difficult to create a promotion directed specifically to businesses often dependent on reaching the male audience.

This special section is built around a number of profiles on various leaders in the community or region. The list can include political leaders and educational leaders as well as religious, business, medical, service club and special interest leaders.

Be sure to present the honorees as a cross-section of the many excellent leaders in the community so not to offend those not selected. Sell display advertising to men’s clothing stores, auto dealers, insurance firms, banks, sporting goods stores, restaurants and any other business wishing to reach male buyers.

For balance and additional revenue, do a Women of N’West Iowa (or your community or region) at a different time.


Heart and Soul

Here’s a section—or number of sections—that require little extra effort from the editorial department. Heart and Soul is built around dozens of submitted photos that capture the essence of a community or local neighborhood. It highlights pictures of children playing, folks at work, celebrations, school activities, etc., and a heart-warming essay on why the area is “special” written by a local resident.

Publish it as a tabloid keepsake section on a regular schedule, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood or nearby community to community. For best results do all pages, including ads, exclusively in process color.


Band/Choir Trip Diary tabloid

Follow along when your high school band or choir takes its next trip to play or sing at Disney World or the Cotton Bowl. Arrange with a student to keep a detailed diary of the trip—the official moments and behind the scenes—and with a talented parent to take pictures. Publish the material as a commemorative tabloid with supportive ads from the entire community.

Millionaire for a Day

Metro radio stations often sell a Millionaire for a Day promotion by giving away a day’s interest on a million dollars. You can upstage that promotion and gain exceptional advertising by giving your readers the opportunity to live like a millionaire for a day.

Arrange for free maid and butler service, in-home catering, free golf and tennis coaching (and playing time), investment advice, limo service and more. Then sell 13 weeks of advertising around in-store registration boxes. Build excitement by having each sponsor draw a weekly preliminary winner who becomes eligible for the grand prize.

Our Millionaire for a Day promotion attracted coverage by three nearby metro TV stations. Remember to require all sponsors of the free services to also buy the promotion. You can’t sell the package to their competitors when they are getting the free publicity attached to the giveaway.

Want more information or sample tearsheets? I’ll be happy to e-mail you what I have on file. Send your request to pww@iowainformation.com. © Peter Wagner 2013


Peter W. Wagner is publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW, Sheldon, IA, and president of Creative House Print Media Consultants. He is a regular presenter at newspaper conferences and conventions as well as a new revenue consultant and trainer for independent newspapers and groups. He can be reached at pww@iowainformation.com or on his cell—712-348-3550.

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