The Guardian Invites Pedestrians in Berlin to Break Glass for Free Magazines

Stunt kicked off OOH strategy to attract new readers to the Guardian Weekly

posters on a wall
More than 2,000 campaign posters are on display in Berlin for the next three weeks. The Guardian Weekly
Headshot of Ian Zelaya

Key insights:

In a post-Brexit world, The Guardian has directed European readers to its international magazine in explosive fashion—by encouraging them to literally break glass to read a copy.

The U.K.-based news organization launched an out-of-home campaign in Berlin this week, with posters that depict shattered boxes containing print issues of the Guardian Weekly. As a kickoff on Monday, the Guardian worked with in-house agency Oliver to bring the creative concept to life by debuting four real boxes that passersby could shatter with a hammer to grab actual magazines.

Kate Davies, director of brand and awareness at Guardian News & Media, said the campaign’s objective is to increase brand awareness in Germany, where the magazine has seen a growth of 54% since its relaunch in 2018.

“The Guardian is in a terrific position to introduce and amplify our global news magazine, which reflects our independent, unbiased journalism to a European audience,” Davies said.

The campaign kicked off Monday with the experiential, glass-breaking stunt.
The Guardian Weekly

Sam Jacobs, creative director at Oliver, pointed out that the Guardian Weekly’s coverage of global issues actually inspired the campaign concept. The imagery incorporates magazine covers released in the past year that spotlight everything from climate inaction to corporate greed.

“For some of these subjects, it feels like we’re in a state of emergency, especially in relation to the climate crisis. This got us thinking about what you might need in an emergency,” Jacobs said. “We wanted to create an emergency escape—the ability to smash an emergency box, which could arm you with information and facts you need to think more deeply about these subjects.”

The Guardian and Oliver worked with experiential marketing agency Jack to develop the interactive street placement. In case you were concerned, the box covers were made of sugar glass, a breakable material made with resin used as a stand-in for real glass in films. Davies said the brand and partner agencies worked with city officials to ensure the legality of the stunt.

According to Jacobs, about 10 people participated in breaking the glass boxes with the metal hammers attached. The Guardian will use footage of the stunt for a digital push. Davies said around 2,000 posters will remain on display throughout Berlin for the next three weeks.

Experiential is a fairly new tactic for The Guardian, which has a history of captivating advertising campaigns. Davies and Jacobs said the interactive stunt aimed to show off the magazine in a tangible way.

“We wanted to push ourselves to do something a bit different, and turn gorgeous design work into something a bit more intensive,” Davies said.

According to Davies, the publisher plans to measure the success of the campaign by monitoring search traffic and impressions on the Guardian Weekly’s search pages. She also noted the brand will make growing in other markets a priority for future campaigns.

“We’re a pro-European news brand,” Davies said. “In terms of marketing activity, we remain totally committed to marketing in Europe, in the United States and Australia, to make sure our readers know we continue to be a global voice.”

Other publishers have recently turned to OOH advertising to drive growth. In November, The Atlantic teased a magazine redesign with a public mural and The Wall Street Journal’s first widespread brand campaign included murals across the country. Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.