The story behind those stick-on ads

In the good old days, when newspapers were printed on larger sheets, there was something we enjoyed doing whenever school kids toured our offices. We would teach them how to fold a newspaper into a four-cornered hat – a pressman’s hat.

It was a way of celebrating the newspaper as a physical thing. Sure, a newspaper is a collection of news and information; but it’s also something you can touch and feel, fold, clip, or roll up and stuff into your back pocket.

Even as more people read newspapers on computer screens, we hear from a lot of people who say they still enjoy the physical sensation of holding a newspaper in their hands.

And that physical interaction with our product is at the heart of one advertising innovation that sometimes shows up on Page One of the Daily Herald: those 3-inch by 3-inch messages that are stuck on the page like one of those 3M Post-It notes.

Our sales staff calls them “peel-n-deal” ads, and the newspaper started offering them in the fall of 2010. They’ve been around the newspaper industry for 12 or 15 years, advertising folks estimate.

Sue Strong, the Daily Herald’s production director, says the equipment for applying the stick-on notes was installed in Everett about the time her crews took on the nightly job of printing USA Today for the Pacific Northwest.

The ads are pre-printed and delivered to the Daily Herald in cardboard sleeves called “cards,” Strong says. And the applicator is a piece of equipment formally known as a Barstrom labeler.

It seems obvious that a number of advertisers like the novelty of the product and the prominence it gives their messages.

Ron Lee, advertising director, is enthusiastic about the “high level of engagement” that these full-color ads deliver. The readers grab them and peel them off – and that’s something you can only do with a physical product, not a smart phone or a PC screen.

And once they’ve peeled it off the front page, they can transfer it to their refrigerator and save it until the next shopping trip, Lee says. And that’s a real asset at a time when things like coupons are growing dramatically in popularity.

“We’re always looking for new ways to engage readers with the newspaper, in this case helping advertisers engage readers with a small coupon or message that easily peels off for redemption, or to set aside as a reminder,” says David Dadisman, publisher of the Daily Herald.

“Unfortunately those sticky notes sometimes end up on top of a great photo or story,” he adds. “And that can be annoying to some readers. But growing this new revenue stream helps The Herald keep our newspaper prices as low as possible, so the reader is the ultimate winner.”

Once readers grew accustomed to seeing front page stick-on ads, negative reactions dwindled to an infrequent handful, says Neal Pattison, executive editor. “Those things probably bug my photographers and designers more than they bother readers.”

A week ago, for instance, the Herald Health magazine told the story of an inspirational 7-year-old medical patient – and editors put her smiling photo on Page One of the newspaper to promote the article.

And, Pattison reports, “The stick-on note hit her, splat, right in the face.”

But as Lee, the advertising director points out, “Most folks are willing to remove (the ad) if it is covering something they want to read.”

Although these ads are small, they offer advertisers a lot of variations. They allow printing on the back – so businesses can include a map or directions to their stores. Some can have multiple pages folded together – and there are even some “peel-n-deal” ads that allow readers to scratch them to reveal numbers to messages, just like lottery tickets.

Each week, Here at The Herald provides an inside peek at the newspaper. Is there something you would like to know? Email Executive Editor Neal Pattison,

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