20 minutes goes yellow

It was a surprise, though not a shock, to see the free Swiss commuter paper “20 minutes” today in a special yellow issue, thanks to the one-off sponsorship by Rivella. On first seeing it, I’d thought that it was just yellow because of reflected light, but it proved to be a special promotional issue for a new flavour: of Rivella Yellow with lactose-free soya serum.

The temporary, colourful re-branding of the newspaper and website is bold and attention-grabbing. Commuters in Switzerland are well used to seeing the daily free newspapers but going one step further than full-page adverts by the simple expedient of making the whole paper yellow makes it stand out from way down the length of an often packed carriage. Those same commuters who board and ignore the paper every day will automatically look to see why the paper appears different and therefore ensure that the temporary re-branding works much better than even a full-page, highly-designed advertisement. The extra visibility not only ensures that commuters see that there is a new product line available, but also helps “20 minutes” to gain more interest from readers and future advertisers alike.

As a designer, though, I have to question the validity of even temporarily interfering with the newspaper’s online logo and making the white text match the same yellow-green background which pervades the rest of the site. An interesting side effect of creating a cross-media campaign is that the producers have chosen not to use the bright yellow of the brand itself in the newspaper, so as to increase legibility. Using an intense yellow would not only make the small text practically illegible, but on the printed paper, would also have increased the cost of the one-off run.