Chasing paper


The paper industry is under threat from eco-campaigns to create a paperless world full of online billing and e-cards. Here, one company is fighting back


On both sides of the Atlantic, major paper companies have recently launched advertising campaigns designed to position paper as an environmentally benign, highly-productive and valuable material. Canada-based Domtar launched its Paper Because campaign in September 2010, while Barcelona, Spain-based Torraspapel rolled out its Paper Effect campaign in October.


Torraspapel’s campaign, along with Lyra’s views on whether the campaigns are worth it, will be detailed in the February issue of OPI.


Domtar’s dual objectives


Domtar’s campaign is the most significant in terms of scale. The firm, which is the third-largest paper company in the world, has launched Paper Because adverts in major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Globe and Mail; in magazines such as Audubon, Fast Company and National Geographic; and online with links to short videos on YouTube as well as an elaborate Paper Because website Domtar has also turned up as a sponsor for National Public Radio.


The campaign, it appears, has two goals: to convince customers firstly that paper is still a very useful material and secondly that it is not environmentally maligned.


Two Paper Because print ads that Domtar is running focus on the environmental issue. For example, one advert features a striking photo of sunbeams streaming through towering trees (see page 38), with the tagline "More than 63 percent of paper is recovered for recycling".


In smaller type, it continues: "Compared to 35 percent for metals, 23 percent for glass, and 7 percent for plastic." In the opposite corner of the ad, Domtar further asserts: "Paper Because: It’s one of the most recycled products on the planet."


The environmental focus of Domtar’s campaign is not that remarkable. Many other paper companies have long run ads featuring towering trees in sylvan settings. More interesting is the component of the Paper Because campaign that focuses on paper’s utility, in particular attacking the notion that "paper is dead". One Domtar print ad features a close-up of several executives’ hands on a table in a boardroom as one executive signs a document that says "59 percent of senior executives prefer printed resources versus online resources for information," followed by "60 percent of these executives turn to print for in-depth analysis". A tagline on the left side of the ad reads: "Paper Because: paper means that you mean business."


Online reality


Despite its dogged focus on the usefulness and value of paper, Domtar’s campaign bends to reality and also features an online component. The firm is running banner ads that are similar to the print ads it has created and link to the Domtar Paper Because website. The site has roughly 50 pages or more of content bolstering the same themes.


Down the left side of the homepage is a list of 16 themes such as "It’s easier to learn on paper", "It’s one of the most recycled products on the planet", and "Memories are more fond on paper". Each of the themes links to its own page, where Domtar fleshes out the theme with a page or two of explanation.


For example, the "New customers are worth much more than the price of postage" page has eight paragraphs explaining the power of direct mail and why it is not bad for the environment. Among other snippets of information, it says that "the use of direct mail has increased 57 percent over the last 15 years alone". In addition, according to the US Postal Service, it goes on to say that "people spend an average of 25 minutes with direct mail pieces". Lastly, it enthuses that "discarded direct mail represents only 2.4 percent of municipal solid waste".


Domtar’s campaign also has a social media component, namely videos posted on Facebook as well as on the Paper Because website. These videos are amusing and clever vignettes that use humour to illustrate Domtar’s points on the value of paper. The company no doubt hopes that the videos will "go viral", delivering its message at little cost to huge numbers of mostly younger viewers. The young are exactly who Domtar wants to reach before their paperless habits get out of hand. So far, however, no such luck: only about 300 people have viewed each video as of this writing.


Visit to view the videos, such as our favourite entitled Paperless Office where a man has to enter the elevator bank of a building passing through a metal detector-like device next to which a sign is posted: "NO PAPER BEYOND THIS POINT" (see image on page 40).


A sixth video called Paper – Essential for Life’s Big Moments includes real-life interviews with college students, their teachers and parents. The survey first established that 91 percent of the hundreds of students interviewed viewed themselves as environmentally conscious. "I like the environment," one student told Domtar. "You know, the air and the trees." Another said: "I mean, I think I’m pretty environmentally conscious, like, I recycle."


Then they were asked if they believed "going paperless" would be good for the environment. 48 percent said yes. "Yeah, I definitely think it would have a big impact on the environment," one said.


Then came the trick question: "How would you react if the university said it was going paperless with diplomas and giving out electronic PDFs instead- "What- said one student, laughing.


Another shook his head and said: "I need something I can hold in my hand." Almost 70 percent said they hated the idea of an electronic diploma or at least were bothered by it.


The video does not attempt to cover all the results of the survey and Domtar published more of its findings in a press release. 52 percent of the students said they like study materials on paper, and a majority want key documents such as contracts, certificates and licenses on paper. Fewer than 30 percent were willing to give up printed books, magazines, newspapers or photos. 31 percent said that they write important personal notes on paper.


Despite their apparent love of paper, 36 percent of students saw going "paperless" as the fifth most significant action through which they personally displayed their environmental consciousness.


So has Domtar’s campaign made a difference to the paper industry and people’s consumption of paper? Has its website (pictured left) attracted the sought-after visitors? The jury is still out…


Next month we take a look at Torraspapel’s campaign and analyse whether or not the two approaches have all been worth it.


Lewis Fix of Domtar talks paper…


In this abbreviated interview with Lyra Research, Lewis Fix details the drive behind Domtar’s campaign.


Lyra: How big a commitment is the Paper Because campaign?


LF: I can’t give figures, but it is the most significant investment in an ad campaign in the history of Domtar. But it is not far outside the margins. This isn’t a consumer campaign; Domtar is not a household brand name. For us to do a consumer ad campaign would not affect that much out there.


We wanted to reach key opinion leaders, key environmental and business leaders. The goal of the campaign is to highlight paper’s value, its functionality, its importance in business and personal lives, by hitting on the functionality of paper, the emotional connection people have with paper, and also the environmental side, making sure people are confident doing business with us. We want to address the guilt that comes along with the use of the paper. It is a very targeted audience of key opinion leaders.


Lyra: Are you worried about young people’s disinterest in paper?


LF: It is not an anxiety underlying the campaign, it’s more: "Let’s define this, let’s make sure people understand that paper is not irrelevant." There are some functional parts of paper use that you can’t just cast off when it comes to reading speed and comprehension, when it comes to tactile learning. The more research we look into, when people substitute a Kindle or tablet device for paper, it’s clear that they prefer paper. There is a groundswell of research coming that we’ve posted on the Paper Because website.


We’re not asking anyone to go backwards and give up their electronic devices or not use the internet, but there has been this mantra from the electronics community that says: "Soon, paper is going to be irrelevant." With the research we looked at, we think that’s a myth, that a paperless world is not a relevant goal because there are things that you do better with paper when it comes to learning, to workflow, to referencing something quickly. Paper is extremely relevant and useful. Attaching this guilt to it, this paperless goal to it, this stigma that says: "Gosh, if you’re still using paper, you’re so far behind times." Not really.


Lyra: How successful has the campaign been?


LF: The response so far has been great. We wanted the videos to be fun and light-hearted. We need to take some of the seriousness out of this stuff, life needs humour.


The response we have received has been extremely positive, from the channel and from peers in the industry. Everyone is excited that someone has taken up this topic and is really trying to define paper instead of letting others define it for us.