On May 5th, 1821, a newspaper like no other was born “The Guardian”. Yeah! As you read, The Guardian has been educating readers on local and worldwide events for almost 200 years, as well as documenting and critiquing the world. It is utterly a success story that spreads hope to humanity.
A Brief History
The Manchester Guardian was founded by cotton merchant John Edward Taylor in the wake of the Peterloo massacre of 1819. The first version was published on May 5, 1821. Taylor’s nephew, CP Scott, became an editor in 1872 and purchased the publication in 1907. His 57-year tenure as an editor solidified the paper’s liberal values and granted it an international reputation. In 1919, it began publishing a special edition for readers abroad in the form of the Guardian Weekly.
When CP Scott’s son, John Russell Scott, took over the publication after his father and brother died, he was keen to preserve this legacy. In 1936, he founded the Scott Trust to ensure the Guardian’s financial and editorial independence in perpetuity. The newspaper continued to flourish under the Trust and, in 1959, changed its masthead to simply The Guardian, to represent the breadth of its audience and coverage. In 1964, the editor’s office and key editing divisions relocated to London.
The Guardian’s London years have witnessed a rapid shift in the world of the UK press. In 1993, the Guardian Media Group acquired the Observer, the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, as a sister paper for the Guardian. Two years later the Guardian launched its first website, and in 1999, the series of sites that followed were pulled together to form Guardian Unlimited, the predecessor to today’s theguardian.com.
Celebration of the 200th Birthday with A Unique concept “A Work In Progress”
The Guardian created a unique 200th birthday marketing campaign based on the primary theme ‘A work in progress since 1821’ to emphasize its legacy of bringing facts to light and championing progressive ideals. The Guardian’s unique role and voice in the world are highlighted in the campaign, with an emphasis on its independent ownership, reputation for holding the powerful accountable, and devotion to positive ideas and innovative solutions throughout its 200-year history. Campaign activity will celebrate the evolution of The Guardian’s iconic typography and its longstanding challenger voice. The campaign will come to life through 230 creative outdoor placements across London and Manchester, including a banner at Manchester Piccadilly, that will be treated with pollution absorbing coating Pureti, and a series of special-build ‘work in progress’ billboards.
Created in-house in collaboration with Oliver agency, the campaign aims to highlight the Guardian’s unique role and voice in the world, with a focus on its independent ownership, reputation for holding the powerful to account, and commitment to hopeful ideas and imaginative solutions throughout its 200-year history. On the anniversary date of 5 May 2021, the campaign ran for a month across The Guardian’s digital platforms and applications, social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, and 230 outdoor executions in London and Manchester. The billboards included phrases such as “for facts’ sake”, “The cat among the pigeons” and “Reader funded not billionaire-backed”.
More than 5,000 readers and supporters from across the world signed the Guardian’s 200th anniversary in the month of May, offering heartfelt and meaningful words to share this event with their trusted and beloved source of information. The newspaper described the event as a “delightful addition to their bicentennial celebrations.”
The Guardian also ran a digital festival of live events to celebrate its 200th birthday. Highlights include:
- The Guardian at 200: made in Manchester (11 May), a free event exploring the Guardian’s Manchester roots with Guardian columnist John Harris and editor-in-chief Katharine Viner in conversation with some of the city’s most influential voices including Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham; great-granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline and granddaughter of Sylvia, Helen Pankhurst; CEO of Manchester Pride, Mark Fletcher; lead singer of The Charlatans, Tim Burgess.
- Ghetts and Misan Harriman (7 June): The grime MC will join the photographer and activist to explore art as a form of social commentary.
- Gordon Brown and Jonathan Freedland (9 June): The former prime minister discusses the path to recovery after the pandemic and to a fairer, more equitable society.
The Guardian also partnered with other cultural institutions, including:
- The Photographers’ Gallery, to present an exhibition on the legendary Guardian picture library (25 Jun – 26 Sept 2021), featuring over 300 images drawn from Guardian News & Media archives, and exploring photojournalism across the 20th century including rarely seen working press prints, contact sheets, and editing notes.
- University of Manchester’s John Rylands Research Institute and Library (which holds the Manchester Guardian archives) will be holding a special exhibition and events with Manchester academics, Guardian writers, and experts on the Guardian’s history (virtual exhibition opens 5 May, in-person exhibition dates to be announced).
- Manchester International Festival, where the Guardian will co-host a keynote lecture from an exceptional artist (dates and details to be announced).
Online Readership Increased in The Time of Covid
According to Campaignlive.co, The Guardian’s anniversary campaign seeks to generate an extra 80,000 acts of support throughout the year, which might include making a financial contribution or purchasing a newspaper or a digital membership. According to Davies, the publication’s online readership grew by 67% year on year in 2020. During the same period, it gained 268,000 new digital subscriptions and recurring contributions, an increase of 43%, and received over530,000 single contributions from readers. It currently has more than 900,000 digital supporters – who come through a combination of digital subscriptions and contributions.
“When it comes to anniversaries, it’s easy to look back in sepia tones at what you’ve done. But, that sense of just getting started felt much more energizing to us. We wanted the creative work that sits around it to have this sort of restlessness and agitation in it,” Guardian marketing director Kate Davies said. She continues “Live has been huge for us [during the pandemic],” adding that the company sold more than 100,000 tickets to events in 2020, which was four times what it would have done in previous years.
The Guardian has always used OOH Ads as A Medium to Reach Its Readers
In 2020, The Guardian collaborated with its in-house creative agency Oliver and created a campaign based on the tagline ‘Find clarity’, presenting the magazine as a way for readers to digest news differently while offering a global perspective and “a pause for thought” moment in an increasingly chaotic and confusing world. The ads feature bold, surrealist artwork from illustrator Rafael Alejandro that depict three global news events – coronavirus, Trump and the environment – with each design running alongside an accompanying statement that “The world is… ‘confusing’ (coronavirus), ‘absurd’ (Trump), and ‘in crisis’ (the environment). As shown the illustration invites the brains to “find clarity” through the clustered imagery juxtaposed against the calm.
One More Great Piece of Art “ Voice Your View”
In 2013, The Guardian partnered with BBH New York to launch a campaign under the motto of #VoiceYourView, which merges the Guardian’s strategy of free journalism. The outdoor ad campaign used the illustrations of Noma Bar – an Israeli graphic designer- for the “Points of View” ooh ads to show both sides of a political issue, tailored for the US market. The campaign comprised of three posters depicting issues like individual freedom versus government regulation, internet privacy, gun control, women in the military, and the use of condoms in the adult film industry. These illustrations appeared in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as ooh ads and mobile billboards. Each illustration represented one side of an issue and along with a second illustration that represented the opposite view. Passers-by who see the sidewalk billboards were asked to take a photograph of the ad that represented their point of view and upload the photo to Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #VoiceYourView. There was a website dedicated to collect the votes as they had come in and then featured links to the Guardian’s coverage of those issues.
The bicentennial anniversary of The Guardian is an occasion for both a celebration and a reflection on the newspaper’s long-lasting history. Throughout the past 200 years, the world has gone through a lot; From the abolition of slavery to the invention of the internet, there has been a lot of progress. Under all these circumstances The Guardian proved to be a reliable, trustworthy source of information for readers all around the world. And guess, how does it grasp the attention of its readers? It comes as no surprise, given the eye-catching OOH ads.