Game for anything

Game cards have long been a staple of reader promotion strategies for the national and regional press. Here, David Dodds of Edward Thompson Promotional Games explains the appeal and outlines some of the available options.

By David Dodds

Since the launch of newspaper bingo in the 1970’s, game card based promotional games have become a valuable tool for regional and national newspapers around the world.

Simple number based games and often more complex multi media promotional concepts have helped to dramatically increase the circulation and readership of broadsheet, middle market and tabloid titles, engendering loyalty and encouraging trial. Used to predominantly lock in readers, increase purchase and reward and develop loyalty, games can also be used to increase traffic at retail outlets and events maximising single copy sales opportunities.

As with any marketing activity, planning is essential. A game card that is appealing to readers, offers genuine chances to win, has been well promoted and is readily available is far more likely to deliver the desired results than a promotion that has not been properly thought out.

Making the right choice of game

Before running a game, a newspaper must decide if the type of promotion it is considering is going to appeal to its readers. Research and reader profiles identify the interests of individual readers and this information is often used when creating a game. For example, games with a holiday, shopping or a strong local theme have been very successful over the years with regional titles.

Most formats will work well in both regional and national titles although occasionally more challenging mechanics will be used by the national press, particularly broadsheet titles. Themes such as chess, stocks and shares and word games such as Scrabble have been played in recent years.

Promotional games come in many different variations from simple scratch cards offering ‘instant win’ chances to more sophisticated game pieces offering playability and participation whilst presenting the reader with several opportunities to win.

Game types
BingoGames can be designed to generate daily or weekly line and full house winners over a number of weeks. These promotions are often sponsored by major bingo clubs such as Gala and Mecca who are usually keen to provide support in return for their branding on game cards, point of sale materials and in-paper promotional space. 
Bingo Clubs Specifically aimed at readers who play bingo on a regular basis. The game card is produced in a book form with 52 grids of bingo giving readers the opportunity to play bingo all year round. Readers apply for a book via an application form in the newspaper and can join the game at any time during the year. Bingo Club books can also be used as a canvassing tool to encourage home delivery.
Break open Breaking or tearing open a game card heightens the tension and excitement and has resulted in newspapers recording quite spectacular play rates. 
Scratch cards A tried and tested method of encouraging participation and interaction. Instant win or longer duration games offer playability with daily or weekly winners being generated over the length of the promotion. 
Multi media Games have been designed and implemented to bring together existing media such as TV, radio, internet and print with advertisers. This has allowed specific commercial messages to be associated with actual programme slots. Interactive promotional games are an effective means of creating brand or product awareness in a fragmented media market where the competition for readers, viewers, listeners and advertising revenue increases continually.


Game styles 
Instant win Are highly successful when looking to increase single copy sales from outlets or street sellers/vendors. These games can be themed for use at events and promotions often offering players guaranteed prizes or discounts as an incentive to purchase the newspaper. 
Match games Using symbols, words or numbers attracts high participation rates and appeals to readers of all age and social groups. Players are familiar with this mechanic as it is a method often used by national tabloid newspapers in high profile game card promotions.
Collect games Are fun, addictive and different giving players the opportunity to win every day resulting in casual purchasers becoming regular readers.

Advertising support

One of the most common reasons that any in-paper promotion can fail is insufficient advertising support. Too often after an initial burst of high profile on-the-page activity a promotion becomes hidden away or even dropped from the publication to make way for something else deemed to be more attractive.

When running a promotion, it is rare that a regional title will have the budget to use above-the-line advertising such as TV and radio. It is therefore vital that the launch of any game is preceded by a teaser campaign in the main publication with wherever possible, additional support in weekly and free titles.


It is important for the newspaper to make it as easy as possible for a reader to take part in a game. Once awareness and interest has been created with a well thought out advertising campaign, the availability of the game card is paramount.

Although some newspapers have the facility to machine insert cards into every copy the majority do not and have to use other methods of distribution to ensure that readers have a game card at hand for the start of the game.

Ample supplies of game cards throughout the duration of the promotion at newsagents, branch offices, retail outlets and by post make it far more likely that a reader will participate in a newspaper game.

There have been many instances in the past where a newspaper has made game cards readily available to households outside its immediate circulation area using a ‘blanket distribution’ resulting in product trial and incremental sale.

Genuine chances to win

Readers will respond positively if a game is well promoted and it is made clear to them that there are prizes there to be won and everyone has a genuine chance to win. Many newspapers these days will run promotions that have no association with the title and require readers to make a long expensive phone call to claim a prize. Although a useful source of revenue, this type of initiative can discourage readers from participating in newspaper promotions that involve no cost other than the purchase of the paper itself.

Budgets and processes

The number of game cards required, colours and complexity of the game mechanic are all factors that dictate the cost of a game card promotion. Once a theme has been chosen and artwork designed, a short print run of a simple but effective bingo game can usually be produced for around £1,000 to £1,500 within three to four weeks.

Tried and tested

Game card based promotional games have an enduring appeal to readers and are a tried and tested method of rewarding loyalty, encouraging participation and interaction while building brand awareness. Readers will always respond to a promotion that is fun, exciting and appealing and most importantly, gives them real chances to win. These promotions have proved to be both cost effective and complementary to the sales promotions objectives of regional and national newspapers alike.