From black and white flyers to full-colour websites

When Len Kubas started working at the Toronto Star's circulation department in 1969, ads were mostly black and white and the big department stores would buy five or six pages at the back of a section to promote their specials.

Compare that to the eye-catching bursts of colour and strong photos that dominated the winners of the Great Ideas awards for newspaper marketing campaigns that Kubas co-judged. He explains his judging criteria succinctly.

"First off: creativity. Does it jump out?" Kubas, now a Toronto-based consultant, says. "We've seen the evolution to the use of colour, the visuals, lots of impact."

This use of visuals earned the Lethbridge Herald top honours in the small market category for a vibrant photo spread that accompanied a Valentines' promotion offering a three-month subscription to the paper along with a romantic meal in a local restaurant.

Some things, however, haven't changed. As in the old days, the effectiveness of an ad is key. Kubas cites a Hamilton Spectator series on mental health that used effective graphic design to drive readers to the package.

The other major change Kubas cites in advertising is the rise of the internet.

"There's more reference (in print) to online or digital. So in some cases, you don't need to jam your ads with details," he says. Modern ads can simply point readers online to get more information.

That's what the Winnipeg Free Press did with its Winnipeg's Gone Wacky contest to find the best comedians in the city. The paper got local comics to submit videos which it then posted on its website, where readers could vote on them. The project got an impresssive response, with more than 50 videos added to the site.

The project earned the Freep a first-place finish in the promotional campaigns category.