Print reigns during royal revelries

Sarah Cosgrove
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Newspapers and magazines can’t resist a royal special and the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II on 21 April was the perfect opportunity to go large, sometimes very large, on the subject of our longest reigning monarch.

Specials, supplements, clothes and masks were all an opportunity for print to be centre stage, and for printers to cash in.

Two Sundays before the Queen’s birthday, The Sun on Sunday printed a special The Queen at 90 supplement, with a run of around 1.7 million. 

This was printed as a 24pp, mini-mag size (220x190mm) on 56gsm gloss at Prinovis UK in Liverpool.

News UK stablemate The Times has released a 132pp, perfect-bound bookazine, cleverly priced at £9.99. It was print managed by RR Donnelley working with the in-house marketing department. Queen Elizabeth II was printed by Ancient House, which PrintWeek learns “did a good job”.

Rival The Daily Telegraph’s bumper 124pp special magazine was published the Saturday before the special day and thought to be printed, along with the rest of its magazine supplements, at Polestar Sheffield. 

The regional press was not to be outdone. Archant’s Eastern Daily Press, the local paper for the Sandringham estate, published an interview with Queen’s god-daughter Victoria Pryor who praised the Queen’s work ethic and “fantastic sense of duty and dedication”.

The paper published 24-page supplements on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the Queen’s birthday week, which featured messages from 7,500 local children and a 40-page supplement, 90 Glorious Years, on her birthday, with seven pages dedicated to the happy event in the main paper. This featured a special broadsheet wrap, all printed at Archant’s Thorpe St Andrew plant near Norwich.

Editor-in-chief Nigel Pickover said: “In total we produced more than 120 pages of extra coverage, it wasn’t a major issue in terms of printing, although we had to pre-print the 40-page supplement. Readers loved the broadsheet wraparound.”

It was no surprise to anyone that publications dedicated to monarchy were among the most effusive. Monthly glossy Majesty, a Rex Publications title, published a bumper 84pp issue, 25% bigger than usual, printed by Wyndeham Group, and a separate 204pp bookazine, printed abroad, which it is selling for the princely sum of £27.

Editor Joe Little says: “We believe that it’s sold pretty well. I don’t have any figures at this moment in time but we had promotions associated with it. It was in supermarkets that it isn’t normally in; we’re happy with how it’s gone.”

Little said that while there was a lot of competition for readership “these events do absolutely no harm” to titles like his. 

Town & Country was keen to show the Queen on horseback, lakeside in a tweed country suit, surrounded by roses and with dogs for its four-cover February edition. The magazine ran an exclusive interview with Dr Roger Mugford, trainer of her corgis.

Bauer Media’s Yours magazine, which is pitched at women over 50, launched a 100pp tribute on 8 March with an initial 30,000 print run, printed by Wyndeham Southern-print. Yours: 90 Glorious Years is on newsstands for £4.99 alongside the usual fortnightly edition. Associate editor Jenny Cripps says: “I think we exceeded expectations. We’re really pleased. Generally the readers really enjoyed it. We wanted to do something really special for our readers and to celebrate an amazing woman.” 

Merchandise mad

It was not all about print on paper though. Souvenir producers have gone into overdrive. Union Jack Wear and W2P t-shirt specialists Spreadshirt are among those offering printed t-shirts, waistcoats, flags, tea-towels and banners for sale.

In preparation for the souvenir bonanza, the Royal Household has relaxed the rules around use of the royal coats of arms, photography and cyphers until 1 October 2016. In certain circumstances commercial use is allowed providing the souvenir item is “in good taste, free from any form of advertisement and carries no implication of royal custom or approval”. 

It is the Queen’s face which has been a big seller for Southam, Warwickshire-based mask printer Mask-arade, which started producing royal face masks in 2009. 

Design and marketing manager Joe Alsop said: “The Queen’s 90th has been incredibly good so far, probably better than we were expecting; it’s all guns blazing.”

While he says he doesn’t think the event has captured the imagination of the nation in the same way as the most recent royal wedding, that could all change when a series of official events to mark the occasion, as well as Prince Philip’s 95th on 10 June, take place in May and June. And with the masks printed litho – its life-size cuts-outs are printed on a digital wide-format printer – at an unnamed trade printer in Tamworth, Staffordshire, the company and the printer are primed to take advantage.

“The beauty of our product is that we react very quickly. Our high-street retail and some of the independents will call up on Thursday afternoon wanting stock for the weekend.”

No royal occasion would be complete without a special stamp, or in this case 10. The Royal Mail’s Stamp Sheet features four generations of the Royal Family and marks the first time Prince George has been featured on a Royal Mail stamp.

Stamp strategy manager Philip Parker said, “Royal themed stamps are always among our most popular stamp issues, and the demand for the new stamps reflects that.”

Perhaps the fanciest publication is the official book for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebration, which takes place on 12-15 May at Windsor Castle. The 472pp 245x289mm Queen at 90 sewn hardback is published by St James’s House, features a purple cloth finish cover with foil blocking is wrapped in a matt laminated dust jacket printed in metallic ink and is available for £25. 

Of course the Queen herself is a big driver of print spend. For her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Queen received more than 120,000 cards, letters and gifts and got 17,420 cards and presents during her birthday week alone. It seems printers have an extra reason to celebrate what continues to be an exceptionally print-worthy life. 

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