Could you make your advertising more topical?

Topical advertising is advertising that leverages off – “borrows interest from” – events that are in the news.

It can frequently be used, especially in news mediums (in print or online), to create a spike in interest and enquiry, and also to burnish a brand’s image.


On September 23 2009. Sydney had thousands of tonnes of dust dumped on it, in a spectacular show of nature. This “once-in-a-lifetime” shrouding of red dust in Sydney was another big event that got the advertising industry moving. The next day’s ads included:

  • “How do you get red dust out of white pants? Time to call your Mum?” (Telstra)
  • “Now that the dust has settled, enjoy a streak free shine” (Windex)
  • “A little dirt isn’t the end of the world” (OMO)
  • “Great for stains. And dust storms” (Napisan)
  • “We see the world in orange. We wanted you to see it that way too. – We’re sorry about the dust” (Bankwest)

There were also ads for Subaru, Viva Glass, Mirror Wipes and Visa that related to the dust storm.

Even Tourism NT claimed that it was part of the NT “get ceNTered” campaign “Bringing the red centre to Sydney”.

So while many people turned up to work late or even took the day off work, creatives at local advertising agencies were putting in a hard working shift!

Many moons ago, Budget Rent A Car ran a clever ad when the news was full of a Russian spacecraft which was aimed at Mars, but instead was malfunctioning and possibly going to crash land on Australia. For 24 hours, it dominated the news cycle.

Budget simply ran an ad vertically up the length of a page in one column in Australian newspapers that showed the probe taking off with the headline “Need reliable transport?”

The ad was visually very impactful, the message very simple, and sales duly rocketed up. It more than paid for itself, while providing a witty and attractive gloss for the well-loved “challenger brand”.

Anything can provide the raw material for a successful ad. When Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got turfed out by his own party, Jetstar ran an ad pointing out they had cheap flights to the Gold Coast for those “taking a break”.

And IKEA made a very pointed ad about the loyalty or otherwise of Rudd’s supporters that brilliantly tied the news in cleverly with their product range.

IKEA Cabinet-thumb-450x160-32072

The opportunities to run topical ads that maximise the impact of your brand are nearly endless.

Public holidays are an obvious one, any news item that is really occupying attention, or sporting events are also favourite.

Here are a couple of ads from the UK that leverage sports coverage well. The first, for optometrists Specsavers, ran the day after a controversial “goal line” incident in an England v Germany soccer game, where England were controversially, (and wrongly), denied a goal.



And showing that it’s not just commercial organisations who can take advantage of topical news, here’s a great ad, run the day of England’s first game in the soccer World Cup, making the point that blood donations go down during major sporting events, because everyone’s staying inside watch the TV.


All you need to create a really impactful and hard-working topical ad is an agency that’s willing to go the extra mile to make an ad for you that is pertinent and newsworthy, and the courage to run it.

MOP logoThe nature of topical advertising is that it very often needs to be created, approved and run in a very short space of time – within 24 hours, usually.

So everyone needs to work a bit harder – client, media buying group, and creative agency.

But the results are very often worth it. By borrowing attention from the news, you reach more eyeballs, and you reach them with a higher attention level.

Well worth the effort!


Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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