The Surprising Power of Yellow Paper


To reach students in an offline world, they put up posters on the walls of communications college throughout Rio de Janeiro, inviting young undergraduates to write a campaign about Benneton´s, an Italian retail chain. The agency was so well-known that soon even the students who didn´t read the posters wanted to take part in the competition. Over the course of several weeks, it was the only topic that the students discussed inside and outside their classes.

At that time, the Internet was just in its infant phase, and in Brazil, a home internet connection was still quite unusual. I wanted to do my best and as I didn´t have many tools to help me in my research, I decided to visit the Benneton´s stores in my city and interview the saleswomen who worked there. The stores were spread across town and none were close to where I lived, so needless to say it was a long day spent mostly on buses in between interviews. But it was worth it, as I knew it was important for me to hear about the brand from the people that worked there. The saleswomen also gave me some magazines that the Italian company produced at that time.

As soon as I returned home I set to work on my report. When I finished, I decided to print it on yellow paper rather than the traditional white, figuring that with the number of people competing for this job, I had to do something to differentiate myself.

The agency team told all participants in the contest to show up at their office at the same time in order to deliver their papers. When they saw the massive traffic jam and commotion in front of their building, the agency realized that its competition had worked, and that they still remained a highly sought-after destination for young communications students. On my end, after spending more than an hour in the massive line, I was finally able to deliver my yellow paper.

Three months later I received a telegram—I got the job!

On my first day of work the creative director told me that after receiving all the reports, he divided them into a number of piles so everyone from his team could read everything. Despite the massive number of submissions, he told me that all his team could talk about was the “great paper on yellow paper.”

In the end, they narrowed down the submissions to the best five, but were having trouble narrowing them any further. It was at that point that the creative director jumped in: “Look, all of them are great. But we spent three months talking about the one on yellow paper, and it made us all very curious to read it. I say the one who submitted that paper deserves the job.”

That was my first lesson in the communication business. It won´t ever be enough to do great work. To be successful in your campaign, you also must do something original. It was already important in an offline world, but nowadays, if you don´t dare to be different your work probably won´t even be noticed by your audience. So, don´t hesitate to do something unorthodox—it might just make all the difference.