The Company Trying to Save Paper With Its Retro Print Ad Campaign

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As we flipped through Newsweek's retro Mad Men themed issuecomplete with matching retro ads, our eye caught this Domtar advertisement for paper. In contrast to the rest of the issue, which features a '60s-era veneer atop 2012-era things, this ad's dated feel goes beyond art direction -- its very being is retro. In a time that has ushered in the death of so many physical newspapers, magazines, and encyclopedias, this retro-ified ad for paper looks like it actually came from the 1960s. But we double-checked, and it is a real, current ad from Domtar's "Paper Because" campaign, which tries to convince would-be customers of the outdated medium's benefits. 

Domtar is a Canadian-based paper manufacturing company and the largest integrated manufacturer and marketer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America, according to the company's About Us section. The company makes and sells paper for printers, paper for books, and specialty and converting paper. It also makes pulp and Attends brand adult incontinence products (presumably less of a dated entity than paper). The company's history tells us it had what it describes as large growth during the 1950s and '60s (the Mad Men era), and of late has taken a new direction, which leads us to the Paper Because campaign. 

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Beyond this ad, which suggests that those who read on paper "read faster," "retain more," "spark creativity," and maybe turn into a super hero called the "Super Reader," the campaign argues we need more paper in our lives for three reasons: because it is sustainable; because it is personal; and because it is purposeful. A little True-False quiz claims that paper does not destroy forests ("for every tree harvested, several more are planted or naturally regenerated"), does "not really" consume a lot of fossil fuels, and that the carbon footprint "is not as high as you think!" We then get to "meet paper," who reminds us: "We've been through a lot together, and it's been fun." (That Paper sounds a lot less bitter than this Paper writing over at The Hairpin, who calls the Kindle a "fat bitch.") And then there's a detailed nine-point list of why paper is useful "even in the digital age," which Domtar also touts in a press release announcing the ad. Here are some of the choicest stats from Domtar on why paper is better for us:

  • "Paper also helps the economy on a larger scale. In 2008, advertising mail contributed more than $702 billion in increased sales to the U.S. economy."
  • "While junk e-mails are often sent straight to spam filters, 81% of consumers still read or skim their advertising mail — and business owners are taking notice of the trend."
  • "According to a Pitney Bowes survey, 85% of businesses were pleased with their direct mail response rates. Maybe that's because they were even higher in 2009 than in the previous year."
  • "In a Neuromarketing study conducted by Royal Mail through Millward Brown, it was reported that direct mail triggered more activity in the parietal cortex, which is associated with the integration of visual and spatial information. This suggests that print-based material may be more easily integrated into the brain. Because we can see and touch paper, it’s seen as more concrete, and can act as a cue for memory."
  • A 2011 survey of millennials found 65 percent think it's easier to view or read something on paper.
  • 59 percent of senior executives trust printed material more than online sources, and that 60 percent prefer printed information when they need to do an in-depth analysis
  • "A 2009 study revealed that 64 percent of workers prefer ink on paper rather than a screen when it comes to reading. The rate was even higher (70 percent) among employees of technology companies."

We get some of this stuff, like giving our eyes screen breaks every so often, but does anyone really want more direct mail?

We're not immune to paper nostalgia, especially as we sit in front of a computer all day, every day. But even back in the '60s the world kinda knew paper was on its way out, as we see in this 1962 cartoon strip unearthed by The Daily's Matt Novak. Below we see a "researcher of the future" using a computer-esque machine to look things up. "A lot has changed since the 1960s, but we wanted to use this retro theme to make a serious point," explains Lewis Fix, Domtar's Vice President of Sustainable Business and Brand Management in the company press release. The other Paper, over at The Hairpin, put that serious point better: "I'm dying. And I have been dying, 'very quietly' but with gathering steam, they say, for the past decade or so. It's true, and I'm not afraid. Or, I've known so many kinds of fear that this almost comes as a relief. I realize that's probably just me trying to sound brave, though," says Paper in a (paper-less) Internet blog post. 

Of course, if paper (ads) can save paper (magazines), maybe Domtar has a point. For now. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.