Dating back to the 2008 HSPA Foundation advertising contest, only once did the number of entries break 800 – and then just slightly.

Flash forward.

In the 2012 contest, judges reviewed 966 entries from 44 newspapers, breaking records in both ads and participants.

Since 2008 no more than 30 papers entered the contest in a given year.

After trying for years to increase numbers in both areas, the Indiana News­paper Advertising Executives Association Board and the HSPA Foundation finally saw results this year.

“The INAEA board voted to change to a digital format the first year we discussed the option,” said Foundation Director Karen T. Braeckel. “They tried changes in the fee structure and personal contact to encourage participation.”

The HSPA Foundation board continued to emphasize its desire to see more papers compete, Braeckel said. Everyone benefits from sharing ideas. And recognizing excellence in advertising sales and design is important.

Although she hesitates to attribute the increase to any single factor, Braeckel said the ease of entering digital tear sheets in many of the categories might influence more members to get involved.

The Foundation sent letters with winners’ names in a packet about the Advertising Conference. This year’s theme – Don’t Stop Believin’ – has an ’80s vibe.

Seeing more participation in the contest is encouraging, said INAEA Board President Mark Sheridan, retail sales manager at The Star Press (Muncie).

“We hope it carries over to the Advertising Conference in September,” Sheridan said. “We are bringing in two nationally recognized trainers to work with managers, sales reps and graphic designers.”

The Awards Gala follows the training Sept. 28 at the Indianapolis Marriott North. The INAEA board voted to go back to an evening format this year.

Register by Friday, Aug. 31, for early-bird rates.

For more information visit www.HSPAFoundation.org/events.