Tech in Action: Print goes programmatic

A joint ad between McDonald's, Burger King and Subway used the pages of a newspaper to serve personalized content.


Isobar claims to have created the first “programmatic print ad”, using data to target personalized ad content from three of the world’s most recognizable QSRs.

Working with Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, Isobar Brazil created a print ad featuring the logos of McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway underneath a QR code. After scanning the code, readers were given an ad featuring a promotional offer, based on time and geolocation data. The location of the reader determined which restaurant the ad was from, with time of day determining the product and exact offer that was served.

The ad might not seem to be programmatic in the way most in the industry have come to define it, as the ad served is not targeted through a bidding process. But as Rui Branquinho, CCO at Isobar, explained in a release, it has the potential to offer a similar level of personalization, as well as the ability to change strategies in real-time based on performance.

“If an advertiser releases an offer at 8:30 a.m. and, within hours, realizes that it has been losing ground to more aggressive deals from the other brands, its offer can be adjusted to become more competitive,” he said. “The second phase of this new product envisions that participating brands can come up with ‘more appealing’ offers, even if they are not the closest or most convenient ones to the reader.”

Paulo Pessoa, executive sales director at Estado, added that the newspaper is in discussions with brands from other categories to “split a page” with similar ads.

Many in the print industry are looking for ways mobile technology could be used to create more innovative and engaging ad formats. Earlier this year, Quebecor developed AR features for its J5 newspaper app, first using them to provide extra content in an ad for Cirque du Soliel.