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The Guardian's New Campaign Tests the Power of 'Weird' Humor  

The Guardian, the UK newspaper with a global reach, has won acclaim for a new marketing campaign that embraces dry wit and provocative bluntness.

The GuardianDeveloped with the creative agency Lucky Generals and taglined “Not For Sale,” the campaign emphasizes the newspaper’s independent, user-funded model. A video ad by directorial duo Rubberband shows the variety of ways that people interact with the newspaper, from lessons in the classroom to family discussions and on through to picking up after the dog.

Lucky Generals’ managing director, Cressida Holmes-Smith, told The Drum that The Guardian’s marketers aspired toward a tone drawn from music videos as much as ads. “Playfully intelligent was a phrase the agency brought,” Holmes-Smith said. “‘Weird’ was another word that was discussed.”

Creative Bloq, which lauds the campaign as “a masterclass in elegant design,” notes that the “Not For Sale” ads are minimalist, featuring positive and negative words relating to the organization’s pugnacious news coverage: “Loved,” “Hated,” “Trusted,” “Feared,” “But never controlled.” These are presented in the newspaper’s distinctive typeface with contrasting jewel-toned color arrangements.

Creative Review notes that the campaign “offset[s] an earnest tone with a dry sense of humor.” The initiative fits into The Guardian’s three-year strategy to boost its reputation and paying readership worldwide. It’s the newspaper’s first campaign since 2019.

More About Advertising dubs the video piece its “ad of the week,” observing that newspaper campaigns “often bring the best out of agencies,” with Droga5’s work for The New York Times leading the way.

Joel Midgley, head of marketing at Guardian News & Media, told Creative Boom, “The Guardian isn't like other media brands, and our campaigns shouldn't be either.”

The “Not For Sale” push encompasses audio, video, newsletters, print and social. While it hasn’t yet arrived in the United States, where The Guardian has a Manhattan-based online presence, the campaign marks the newspaper’s biggest-ever foray into continental Europe.


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